Oil report

Chinese solar firm to build plant in Chernobyl exclusion zone

SHANGHAI, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Two Chinese firms plan to build a solar power plant in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which has been off limits since a devastating explosion contaminated the region with deadly radiation in 1986.

GCL System Integration Technology (GCL-SI), a subsidiary of the GCL Group, said it would cooperate with China National Complete Engineering Corp (CCEC) on the project in Ukraine, with construction expected to start next year.

“There will be remarkable social benefits and economic ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy,” Shu Hua, the chairman of GCL-SI, said in a press release.

The 1-gigawatt plant was part of the group’s plan to build an international presence, he added.

CCEC, a subsidiary of state-owned China National Machinery Industry Corp, will be in overall charge of the project. GCL-SI did not say how much it would cost.

China has been trying to encourage solar developers at home to make use of damaged or contaminated land to build solar or wind power projects, with plants now operating in subsidence-hit regions of Shanxi, the country’s top coal province.

The Chernobyl plant, which is due to be covered next year by a 1.5 billion euro ($1.6 billion) steel-clad arch, is surounded by a 2,600 square km (1,000 square mile) exclusion zone of forest and marshland.

GCL-SI did not say where the plant would be built, or give details of the construction plans.

The firm was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.

China is the world’s biggest solar power manufacturer and produced 72 percent of global solar power components in 2015, according to a research note by Everbright Securities last week.

$1 = 0.9438 euros Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Richard Pullin