Chernobyl opens first solar project

8 October 2018 (Last Updated June 18th, 2020 15:29)

A solar park has been completed in the city of Chernobyl, Ukraine, marking a long-awaited milestone as the first solar installation at the reactor location devastated by nuclear disaster in 1986.

Chernobyl opens first solar project
The arch above the Chernobyl nuclear power plant Credit: Jorge Franganillo

A solar park has been completed in the city of Chernobyl, Ukraine, marking a long-awaited milestone as the first solar installation at the reactor location devastated by nuclear disaster in 1986.

The 1MW solar park was officially opened on Friday and consists of 3,800 panels across four acres, producing sufficient energy to power around 2,000 households in the area. The plant uses existing power transmission lines connected to the site and also makes use of regional feed-in tariffs to generate power in an otherwise unusable area.

The $1.2m plant, a joint project by Ukrainian company Rodina and Germany’s Enerparc AG, offers the first real sign that the area can be rebuilt. This is the  first time the region has been used for power generation since 2000.

Solar Chernobyl LLC chief executive Evhen Variagin told Reuters: “It’s not just another solar power plant… It’s really hard to underestimate the symbolism of this particular project.

“We are seeing a new sprout, still small, weak, producing power on this site and this is very joyful.”

Two years ago, a 36,000 tonne arch was placed on top of the old nuclear station as a means of containing radiation. It has also allowed workers access to the surrounding lands to clear it of materials from the old nuclear reactor facility.

Despite the newly installed arch, much of the area remains uninhabitable, and solar panels that require little to no human involvement have long been seen as an attractive alternative to traditional power generation methods.

The feed-in tariffs harnessed by the new site have also been the cause of a marked increase in renewable capacity in the country, with more than 500MW installed in Ukraine between January and September this year, a figure more than double that installed in 2017.

In April 1986, a failed safety test in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor led to a wave of radioactive material spreading across Europe, causing the immediate death of 31 people and the evacuation of thousands.

Thousands more died in the years following the accident, due to radiation-related conditions such as cancer.

Public access to this area remains limited, with estimates suggesting the land will remain unsafe for human habitation for another 24,000 years.