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5:48 AM Sunday, October 22, 2017
Energy
​For Chernobyl Solar Plant, Look to Belarus
Following Belarus example. 39 companies, largely foreign, bid to open solar plant on Ukraine's portion of contaminated land
image/svg+xml Kyiv Lutsk Rivne Zhytomyr Lviv Ternopil Khmelnytskyi Uzhgorod Chernivtsi Vinnytsia Chernigiv Sumy Kharkiv Poltava Cherkasy Kirovohrad Lugansk Dnipropetrovsk Donetsk Zaporizhzhia Mykolaiv Odesa Kherson Simferopol Sevastopol Ivano- Frankivsk

KYIV – Investors bidding to construct a solar energy complex on land contaminated by the world’s biggest nuclear accident at Chernobyl need look only across the border for inspiration from a plant already operating in Belarus.

Ukraine’s Environment Minister Ostap Semerak said 39 companies submitted proposals to secure a lease inside the 30 square kilometer core of the 1,600 square km exclusion zone set up around the nuclear plant after the 1986 disaster.

The abandoned area, dotted by abandoned towns and farmland, is off-limits to agriculture. Belarus was the Soviet republic worst affected by the explosion, fire and aftermath – it took 70 percent of the fallout and one-fifth of its land was contaminated.

With submissions now closed, Semerak said Ukraine’s government had lowered rates for leasing land in the exclusion zone and simplified procedures.

“In this case we are not willing to secure a profit from using the land,” he said in a written statement. “We want to receive profit from investments.”

Belarus Solar Opened Six Months Ago

In Belarus, mobile operator “velcom” opened a $25.6 million, 18.5 megawatts solar power plant within the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve last August.

“The project helps to revive the territories affected by Chernobyl catastrophe and now are considered to be hardly suitable for business,” velcom PR chief Vyacheslav Smirnov said in a recent statement. “Solar Park proves that unique projects can be turned into reality in such regions.”

On the Ukrainian side, the biggest proposal announced to date is a venture between Chinese companies GCL System Integration Technology Co. and China National Complete Engineering Corporation for a solar power plant with a capacity of over one gigawatt. That would make it the world’s largest solar power plant.

Other potential investors come from Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Bulgaria, Belarus and Ukraine.

Safe Place to Work?

Semerak last month addressed the safety of working within the exclusion zone, pointing to the new containment arch that was moved into place over the stricken reactor last November. On that project, no worker, received radiation exceeding regulations, he said.

Solar power has been steadily growing in importance in Ukraine since the current feed-in tariffs were passed by the Rada in 2015 to encourage investment in green energy. Projects commissioned from 2017-2019 will receive $0.16 per kilowatt.

Organizers of the CISOLAR-2017 solar energy conference planned for Odesa in April project that new plants will more than double Ukraine’s solar power capacity to surpass one gigawatt.

Ukraine once had the world’s fourth largest solar plant in Crimea. But Ukraine lost it and other large solar plants when Russia seized the peninsula in 2014.

The next step to further develop alternative energy generation will be for Rada to pass legislation that would restructure the way electricity is bought and sold. A bill passed first reading in September.

For comments and story tips, please email UBJ IT Correspondent Harvey Hinman at this address: harvey.hinman@theubj.com.

Photo: Stretching to the horizon: a field of panels from velcom's solar power plant in Polesie State Radioecological Reserve, part of Belarus' exclusion zone. (Credit: velcom)

Posted Jan. 20, 2017

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