Ukraine is drumming up a simple yet ingenious plan to make use of the wasteland that surrounds the ruins of Chernobyl: turn the site into a giant wind farm and transform the region into a hub of green power.
German company NOTUS Energy has recently signed a deal with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine to explore the prospect of wind energy development within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In attendance at the meeting was Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, who was in Ukraine for the fourth time since the Russian invasion.
"One focus of Foreign Minister Baerbock's visit will therefore be on the measures being taken by Ukraine to ensure and protect [energy] supplies to the population, not least in the upcoming winter," Germany's Foreign Ministry wrote in a post.
"In the midst of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the area affected by the nuclear accident almost forty years ago may thus become a symbol of clean, climate-friendly energy, providing Kyiv with green electricity," the ministry added about the future wind farm.
If the plan goes ahead, Chernobyl could reportedly become one of Europe's biggest inland windfarms.
According to a recent survey by NOTUS, the area holds the potential to pump out 1,000 megawatts of wind power, enough to provide electricity to some 800,000 households in Kyiv, around 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Chernobyl.
Along with helping the shift away from fossil fuels, the move could help Ukraine become more self-sufficient in its energy demands. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became heavily reliant on Russia for fossil fuel imports, but the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War has (quite obviously) upset this relationship.
“A wind farm of this size would make a substantial contribution to the expansion of renewable energies in Ukraine and strengthen the independence and decentralization of the Ukrainian energy supply,” the Managing Director of NOTUS energy Ukraina LLC, the Ukrainian project development company of the NOTUS energy group, said in a statement.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant became the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history on April 26, 1986, when a catastrophic combination of reactor design flaws and operator errors during a safety test caused a reactor explosion.
This resulted in the uncontrolled release of dangerous radioactive materials, forcing authorities to excavate over 120,000 people living in the surrounding area and the nearby city of Pripyat. Still to this day, the nuclear power plant is surrounded by a 2,600 square-kilometer (1,000 square-mile) exclusion zone that’s largely devoid of human activity due to radioactive contamination.
Ukraine has previously expressed interest in exploiting the Chernobyl wasteland as a source of renewable energy. In 2018, a new solar farm was opened close to the destroyed reactor of the nuclear power plant, consisting of 3,800 panels to produce energy for 2,000 households. Now, with Ukraine facing fresh challenges, it looks like those plans are being rejuvenated.
"Even before the full-scale invasion, we had strategic plans to transform the [Chernobyl] zone into a recovery zone. The war hasn't changed them, but temporarily suspended," said Oleksandr Krasnolutskyi, Ukraine’s Deputy Ecology Minister, according to the Kyiv Independent newspaper.
"The partnership with NOTUS energy is a positive example for international investors that the Exclusion Zone is an attractive and promising area for the development of renewable energy and other environmentally friendly technical solutions."