The small Ukrainian city of Pripyat may have managed to go completely unmarked by history if not for the catastrophic nuclear disaster that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April of 1986. As a result of the nuclear accident, the most disastrous in history, a large swathe of the region is uninhabitable, and will be so for 24,000 years.
However, while the area is uninhabitable it is apparently not unusable, and as of last week a small 1MW solar plant was opened at the industrial site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant which will be able to supply power for approximately 2,000 homes.
“Today we are connecting the station to the power system of Ukraine,” said Evgeny Variagin, the chief executive of Solar Chernobyl, a Ukrainian-German company behind the project, speaking at a ceremony celebrating its launch.
The 3,762 solar panels are located only 100 metres across from the infamous #4 reactor upon 1.6 hectares, part of a larger 2,500 hectares of land the Ukrainian Government has offered up to investors to construct solar projects.
The aim is to develop as much as 100 MW on the site – attractive not only for its low costs but also its existing connection to the power grid.
Solar Chernobyl is selling tie power through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and receiving a buy-price from United Energy System of Ukraine energy grid that some experts suggest is at least 50 per cent higher than the European average.
This is the first time in 18 years that the site has fed power into the grid, ever since the last nuclear reactor was finally closed.
“It’s not just another solar power plant,” said Evgeny Variagin. “It’s really hard to underestimate the symbolism of this particular project.”
Valery Seyda, head of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, told reporters that it looked as if the site would never produce power again. “But now we are seeing a new sprout, still small, weak, producing power on this site and this is very joyful.”
The move comes just over a year after the #4 reactor was permanently entombed in the world’s largest moveable structure – a mammoth steel arch which was slid into place over the reactor.
The New Safe Confinement is the world’s largest moveable structure, measuring in at 843 feet (257 meters) across, 355 feet (108 meters) high, and 492 feet (150 meters) in length – roughly the size of two Manhattan city blocks, and is tall enough to enclose the Statue of Liberty.