Solar energy production facilities find their way in unconventional locations, to replace fossil fuels and bring new energy to degraded coal mines and nuclear sites worldwide.

The installation of solar panels on degraded areas, where there are no competing uses (agriculture, wildlife refuges) is very appealing. As coal mining industries are exiting the industry, solar plants can take over energy production and available workforce at the same time.

Surface mining sites pose risks of subsidence, erosion and toxicity, especially when poorly restored. Earlier this year, the Environmental Commission of the state of Nevada added renewable energy and energy storage to the list of acceptable uses for former coal mines. In the Appalachians, plans were announced to convert a mine into a solar power facility to supply up to 100 MW. On the other side of the globe, China operates the largest so far floating solar farm on a lake that used to be a coal mine. The farm has an installed capacity of 40MW and 166.000 panels, and the water prevents overheating of the solar cells.

Image credit: Sungrow

Another floating photovoltaic system, this time sea based, is being built by the land-scarce island state of Singapore along the Straights of Johor, to the north of Woodlands Waterfront Park. The floating system has the size of five football fields and will generate about 6,388 MWh of solar energy every year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2600 tonnes annually.

Finally, a most symbolic development is that of the solar plant that replaced the nuclear power station in Chernobyl. As we had reported in an earlier post, Ukraine had plans to cage in cement the reactor that caused the nuclear disaster in 1986 and install a small solar facility right across it. Now the site produces energy for the first time since 2000. Sustainable energy this time, from 3800 solar panels.

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