Slavutych, Ukraine – The community energy story you need to hear!

Chernobyl’s refugees host their first solar cooperative


Publication date

December 10, 2019

The Chernobyl disaster was one of the most catastrophic incidents in (nuclear) energy history. Many people still remember the feeling of danger and the safety instructions broadcast on the news… younger people might have watched the more recent and very successful TV show. No matter which group you are part of, this story will make you believe in the community energy power!

Slavutych is a small city in northern Ukraine. It is the youngest Ukrainian city and the last city built during the Soviet era. Founded in 1986 as a response to the housing emergency created by the disaster, its ground had to be covered with a two meter layer of uncontaminated soil. Architects from eight Soviet Union Republics were asked to plan a “21st century city”, a reference for the future of modern architecture. They each created a district modelled after their own capital resulting in a town that is a unique architectural example.

Credits: Petr Pavlicek/IAEA CC BY-SA 2.0

The first inhabitants of Slavutych arrived shortly after the accident: they were refugees fleeing from Chernobyl’s contaminated areas; mostly workers at the nuclear power plant and their families, but also inhabitants of the nearby towns. Most of them used to work at Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many still do today.

A renewable energy community to re-invent the town!

Slavutych’s economic and social situation has always been linked to nuclear energy. Recently, a group of citizens decided it was time to flip the narrative by creating a local solar energy cooperative!

 “The idea arrived from the Ukranian NGO Greencubator, who worked with Slavutych on several energy and local development projects”, said Solar Town project manager Andrij Zinchenko. “The mayors Yuriy Fomichev and other local leaders were very supportive of the initiative. They liked our idea of re-inventing our nuclear town and bringing new development options”.

The “Solar Town” project wanted to build three solar power plants and sell the generated electricity at a special price, taking advantage of a national feed in tariff.  The plant is owned by the local cooperative, composed of Slavutych’s citizens and other investors from all over Ukraine. The city is also a member of the cooperative, via the local Agency for Regional Development.

Credits: Solar Town Project

Crowdfunding for solar energy

A small team of clean energy experts, lawyers and economists, willing to foster economic development while giving back to the community, lead the project. Their cooperative launched a crowdfunding campaign that is still running now. Slavutych’s inhabitants were given the opportunity to participate before anyone else for the first 2 weeks. Around 135 thousand euro was invested, out of the original 175 thousand estimated by the Solar Town team.

During the months of October and November 2019, the solar cooperative installed 200kW of capacity on three roofs rented by the municipality (4590 m2 of usable space) and connected them to the local grid. For this, they counted on the support of the highly skilled local workforce that is the city’s most valuable resource.

Each solar plant has been named after Ukrainian scientists or scientists of Ukrainian origin
Credits: Solar Town Project

Local development first

Each cooperative shareholder will earn an annual dividend based on the revenue generated by project minus the expenses incurred in the operations of the solar power plant: around 140 Euro for every 1000 Euro invested, up to 2030. However, it is not only about the money. “Solar Town” stays committed to local development and according to its own statute, the cooperative will donate 5% of its annual income every year to fund local projects!

Solar Town’s power plants might be small, but it showed the local community that there are other options for Slavutych’s workforce. The city’s history is linked to a nuclear disaster, but thanks to a local solar cooperative, its future shines much brighter!