From nuclear wasteland to the largest PV power plant in Belarus. A site irradiated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, boarding Ukrainian territory, is currently being transformed into a 100 MW+ solar array.
The Mogilev regional government has announced that local civil engineering company ZAO Belzarubezhstroy has been awarded the contract to construct a 109 MW solar power plant in the Cherikov District of Belarus, adjacent to the Chernobyl nuclear site.
The government reports that the US$150 million required for the project is being provided by project developer Solar Land – itself a subsidiary of Irish company Cameliaside Limited. Cameliaside is owned by London-based investment firm United Green. The project is also been supported through funds provided by unspecified lenders.
The announcement further reveals that Chinese EPC contractor PowerChina Guizhou Engineering Co. Ltd will provide the equipment for the project construction, with ZAO Belzarubezhstroy carrying out general construction and installation work.
The solar plant will be deployed on a 200 ha surface area near the village of Blizhnyaya Rechitsa and is expected to deliver power to local electric utility Mogilevenergo. On its website, ZAO Belzarubezhstroy specified that the plant will be located on land exposed to radiation during the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986. When complete, the solar project, which was originally launched in 2016, will be Belarus’ largest PV plant.
Currently, the country’s biggest solar park is a 55 MW solar facility located in the Rechitsa District. The Belarusian oil and energy group, Belorusneft, announced the completion of this plant in October 2017. At the time, state-owned press agency Belta reported that there were 30 operational PV power plants with a combined capacity of 41 MW in Belarus. Overall, Belarus is aiming to install 250 MW of solar power by 2020.
According to a recent report of The Energy Community Secretariat, an international organization run by the EU and the governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine – which is responsible for transferring the good practices of the EU internal energy market to these eastern European countries – Belarus is still heavily dependent on oil and gas imports for thermal generation, sourced mainly from the Russian Federation.
Currently, the country has a total installed power generation capacity of 9.84 GW, of which 9.02 GW are owned and operated by local state-owned power utility Belenergo. Around 96% of Belenergo’s electricity is produced by gas power plants, followed by oil (2.6%), biofuels and waste (0.4%), hydro (0.2%) and peat (0.1%).
The Secretariat said in its report that Belarues needs to implement a series of measures in order to improve its energy market, which include, among others, the creation of national regulatory authority, the restructuring of Belenergo, and establishing both wholesale and retail electricity markets for the country.
Alongside the availability of the land, sites affected by irradiation by the Chernobyl disaster are suitable for solar development because of their proximity to existing grid infrastructure. A study released in March 2018, by French company Tractebel, found that up to 1.2 GW of solar could be installed on sites affected by radiation from the Chernobyl reactor, despite the high levels of radiation.