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Europe's largest solar plant switches on

posted 16 Aug 2011, 07:15 by Mpelembe   [ updated 16 Aug 2011, 07:17 ]
Ukraine's flagship green project, a solar power station in Crimea, starts its first phase of operation and switches on electricity supply to nearby villages. By the end of the year it aims to to reach a production rate of 100,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, making it Europe's biggest solar power plant

OKHOTNYKOVO, CRIMEA, UKRAINE (AUGUST 15, 2011) REUTERS -  Ukraine's new solar power plant in the Crimea switched on electricity supplies on Monday (August 15) at the start of operations which should see it become Europe's largest solar station by the end of this year.

The solar power plant in Okhotnykovo, Crimea, aims to reach an electricity production rate of 100,000 megawatt-hours per year, making it the most powerful solar power plant ever built in the region and one of the largest solar power plants in the world.

The station was built by Austrian company Activ Solar as a commercial project and is part of Ukraine's national Natural Energy project.

The Okhotnykovo plant will provide an output of 80 MW making it the largest solar power plant in Europe. Its banks of solar panels, soaking up the Crimean sun, stretch over an area equivalent to 207 soccer fields,

Until the Crimean station started operations, the largest solar power plant in Europe was located in Italy, producing 72 MW of electricity.

Power supplies to the population around the plant were switched on this week as the plant began producing electricity as of Monday. In the village of Karernoye, the homes of its 5,000 inhabitants were switched over to solar.

A phased increase over the next few months should see the station's reach extend further, as far as the town of Saki on the west Black Sea coast of Crimea.

"The station covers a plot 160 hectares in size. The station can produce 80 megawatts at full operating power. The electricity station provides around 20,000 houses with electricity, we serve the villages here in Tsarskiy District, Metyayevo, Veresayevo, Karernoye and the town of Saki," explained Yevgeny Varyagin, Chief Specialist in Solar Panel Installation for Activ Solar at the station.

"As for today - the first stage has been put into operation, the second stage will start in the end of August and the third in September and the fourth in October this year, " added Varyagin.

When fully operational and supplying electricity on all four of its power production lines, the Okhotnykovo solar station will provide green energy for around 20,000 households.

Ukraine has traditionally relied on its rich coal deposits to meets its energy needs. However with these stocks in decline and international concern over its high carbon emissions, Kiev has looked to other sources, including gas from Russia, which has come with its own political price.

The new power plant is expected to reduce Ukraine's carbon dioxide emission by 80,000 tons. The Ukrainian government has stated that it aims to produce up to 30 percent of its electrical energy from renewable sources - sun and wind - by the year 2015.