Radioactive to Renewable – Ukraine’s Plan for Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

In collaboration with a German renewable energy company, the Ukrainian government has initiated a project to construct a massive 1GW wind farm within the Chernobyl nuclear plant’s exclusion zone.

During a visit to Ukraine by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, the government, along with its transmission system operator Ukrenergo and Notus Energy, formally expressed their intent to undertake this ambitious endeavour through a joint declaration. Foreign Minister Baerbock’s visit to Kyiv, her fourth since Russia’s invasion, underscores the significance of Ukraine’s energy supply as a focal point of discussions.

Notus Energy’s preliminary feasibility study revealed that the exclusion zone, an uninhabited area with a 30km radius surrounding the decommissioned Chernobyl facility, infamous for the 1986 nuclear disaster, has the potential to support up to 1GW of wind energy. Such a capacity would rank among the largest in Europe.

According to Notus, this substantial energy generation would be sufficient to power approximately 800,000 homes in Kyiv and its environs.

The project partners have agreed to evaluate the project’s feasibility, including the identification of suitable locations for the wind farm, based on radiation and environmental impact assessments.

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Notus Energy highlighted several advantageous aspects of the site, including the possibility of upgrading existing infrastructure in the Chernobyl vicinity to directly supply energy to Kyiv, situated approximately 150km away. Additionally, the absence of social or ecological barriers in the uninhabited exclusion zone enhances the project’s prospects.

Ukraine’s Deputy Ecology Minister, Oleksandr Krasnolutskyi, emphasised the country’s long-standing strategic plans to transform the Chernobyl zone into a zone of recovery, asserting that these plans remain intact despite temporary suspension due to the ongoing conflict. He sees the partnership with Notus as a positive signal to international investors regarding the potential of the exclusion zone for renewable energy development.

Even amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ministry believes that the exclusion zone could become a symbol of clean, climate-friendly energy, supplying Kyiv with green electricity. Although Russian forces briefly occupied the Chernobyl plant during their invasion last year, they subsequently withdrew from the area after five weeks.

Hannes Helm, Managing Director of Notus in Ukraine, emphasised that the wind farm would significantly contribute to the expansion of renewable energy in Ukraine and enhance the nation’s energy security.

However, this wouldn’t be the first renewable energy project in the exclusion zone. In 2018, a 1MW solar farm was established, providing electricity for around 2,000 homes. These new plans set to increase the capacity by a huge amount, paving the way for potential future projects in the zone.