Solar Farm Opens in Chernobyl Decades After Nuclear Disaster
On Oct. 5, the Ukrainian government unveiled a solar power plant at the site of the now defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant. The opening ceremony came 32 years after a nuclear meltdown, which led to the immediate deaths of 31 plant workers and firemen, and the displacement of 300,000 residents in the surrounding area.
The plant was a joint venture by the Ukrainian company Rodina and the German Enerparc AG, which cost $1.2 million to construct. A total of 3,800 photovoltaic panels power the one megawatt plant, producing enough energy to power 2,000 households.
The solar panels stand 300 feet from reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which spewed radioactive chemicals across Chernobyl and most of Europe. The reactor is now enclosed in a metal sarcophagus that is 305 feet tall to mitigate further radiation leaks. However, the Ukrainian government says that the 10-mile radiation zone will not be habitable for another 24,000 years.
The plant is a result of Ukraine’s efforts to entice developers into building solar farms in the uninhabitable zone. The Ukrainian government has allocated 2,500 hectares for solar development, receiving 60 development proposals from various countries. Solar farms in the development area can use the pre-existing infrastructure, left behind by the nuclear plant, to connect to the power grid. Additionally, they can expect Ukraine to buy the energy at a 50 percent premium over the European market average.
Ukraine turned its back on fossil fuels after it stopped purchasing natural gas from Russia in the past few years, in an effort to diversify energy production. The Ukrainian government is now adopting a renewable approach to energy production. In the past four years, the solar production capacity in Ukraine has more than doubled.
Along with solar farms, rooftop solar panels have accounted for 63 megawatts of solar energy production in Ukraine. The country is following a global trend of accelerated investment in solar power, as prices for solar manufacturing have fallen dramatically. In 2017, global investment in solar energy surpassed the combined investment in coal, gas, and nuclear power.
For Rodina and Enerparc AG, the solar farm is far from complete. The companies are planning on adding more solar panels to the Chernobyl farm, to eventually produce 100 times the energy they do now.