Nov 27, 2016 by

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A new solar summer rises from the ashes of nuclear winter. Two Chinese energy firms will be constructing a new solar power plant in the exclusion zone near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which suffered a powerful explosion in 1986 that poisoned the surrounding area with nuclear radiation. “There will be remarkable social benefits and economic ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy,” said Shu Hua, the chairman of GCL System Integration Technology (GCL-SI), one of the firms tasked with the project. Making the best of a bad situation could prove inspiring to others as the global community begins the hard work of implementing the Paris Agreement.

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A 1,000 square mile exclusion zone of forests and marshland surrounds the former Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine and has been largely off-limits since the 1986 disaster. The reactor itself will be covered next year by a $1.6 billion steel arch. GCL-SI has not revealed details regarding where the new solar power plant will be built or how much it will cost. However, GCL-SI management states that the project will be safe for workers. “Ukraine has passed a law allowing the site to be developed for agriculture and other things, so that means (the radiation) is under control,” said a manager who spoke anonymously.

Related: China plans to meet 2020 emissions goal by tripling solar power capacity

The Chinese firms in charge of building the solar power plant are attempting to build up an international presence and reputation for clean energy excellence. Even before their Chernobyl project, the Chinese have successfully reformatted contaminated land into renewable energy generators. To discourage urban expansion from absorbing more farmland, China has implemented policies that encourage solar and wind power plants on damaged land, including in Shanxi, the country’s top coal province. With 43 gigawatts of generating capacity expected by the end of the year, China is currently the world’s top solar power generator. In the race towards global energy dominance, China is also well ahead. 72 percent of the global solar power components produced in 2015 were made in the People’s Republic.

Via Reuters

Images via Stefan Krasowski and Alex Lang

Ukraine might transform Chernobyl into a gigantic 4GW solar farm

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The nuclear disaster site at Chernobyl remains abandoned, as lingering contamination makes the area too dangerous for human inhabitants. Ukraine leaders are now suggesting a new use for the danger zone, with a proposal to transform Chernobyl into a sprawling solar farm that could produce nearly one-third the amount of electricity generated by the nuclear power plant at its peak. The Ukrainian government released a presentation to a number of banks, and the Guardian reports the proposal includes solar, biogas, heat, and power generation and could produce more than 1,000MW of solar and 400MW of other renewable energy for the region.

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Currently, Chernobyl’s exclusion zone spans 386 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) and Ukrainian leaders are eyeing nearly 15,000 acres for a renewable energy farm. The contaminated land is too dangerous for people to live in, and is similarly unfit for agriculture, so evolving the site from a dangerous nuclear power plant location to a massive clean energy farm seems like a good possibility. In the 30 years since the Chernobyl accident, many proposals for repurposing the land have been discussed, but none have gained the traction that this idea has garnered.

Related: Unexpected Aurora Skyscraper purifies air and water in Chernobyl

That is in part due to changing attitudes about Chernobyl’s potential. “There has been a change in the perception of the exclusion zone in Ukraine. Thirty years after the Chernobyl tragedy [it] reveals opportunities for development. A special industrial area is to be created in compliance with all rules and regulations of radiation safety within the exclusion zone,” says the presentation.

It seems likely the plan for the four gigawatt solar farm will move forward. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which already invested $500 million to seal off the destroyed nuclear reactor with a steel canopy, indicated this week it would invest in the Chernobyl solar farm as well. In addition to the obvious benefits of renewable energy, the proposal suggests that parts of the nuclear power plant could be repurposed for solar power generation, and the project could employ many of the skilled engineers who currently represent a surplus in the available pool of workers.

Via The Guardian

Images via Shutterstock, Wikipedia, and SSE Chernobyl NPP

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