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Ukraine to develop Chernobyl exclusion zone as massive solar park

08 December 2017

The first solar project at Chernobyl is expected to be commissioned this month, an initial move in ambitious plans by the developers to invest €100 million ($119 million) in solar energy-gathering infrastructure in the radioactive exclusion zone, abandoned since the meltdown of the No.4 reactor at the Ukrainian nuclear power station in 1986.

The Chernobyl site - Image: EBRD
The Chernobyl site - Image: EBRD

According to a Bloomberg report the developers, Ukrainian firm Rodina Energy Group and German green energy company Enerparc AG, will start construction in December of a €1 million / 1 megawatt solar farm close to the wrecked reactor, now covered by a massive containment structure, the New Safe Confinement building.

This will be the first step by the companies to invest €100 million in solar infrastructure in the exclusion zone, which follows agreement on a contract in 2016 whereby the Ukrainian government will pay €0.15 per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated from the site until 2030, a price Bloomberg estimates is almost 40% higher than the standard cost of solar in Europe.

Other than the generous feed-in-tariff, the Ukrainian government has also dropped its rents on state property surrounding Chernobyl by as much as 85%, and has made the leasing process easier.

Inside the Zone of Alienation
Inside the Zone of Alienation

Other energy companies have also expressed interest. France’s Engie is conducting a pre-feasibility study on a potential gigawatt-sized project. Chinese companies GCL System Integration Technology and China National Complete Engineering Corp. also said they are interested in building a solar park in the zone.

Ukraine’s minister of ecology, Ostap Semerak, announced a plan in July 2016 to revitalise the 2,600 square kilometre zone, officially called the ‘Zone of Alienation’, where radioactive contamination from the 1986 meltdown makes farming and forestry inherently dangerous.

Renewable energy was seen as a good fit because electricity transmission lines from the nuclear power plant already connect the site to the country’s national grid.

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