solar energy2In a country with an energy legacy tainted by the Chernobyl disaster and a dependence on Russian gas pipelines, Ukraine appears ready to soon become a leader in Europe’s clean energy economy. According to Worldwide News Ukraine, a solar-power plant under construction in Okhotnykovo, Crimea, would at 80 megawatts (MW) become the largest on the European continent. This is a difficult claim to verify, but there’s no doubt that it would at least be among the biggest in Europe.

The plant is being developed as part of the country’s national Natural Energy project. Launched by the State Agency of Ukraine for Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation in 2010, the Natural Energy project aims to build 2,000 MW of clean energy capacity in Ukraine and produce 30 percent of the country’s energy from renewable resources by 2015.

The Okhotnykovo plant, which will cover the equivalent of 207 football fields, is being built by Activ Solar, an Austrian Company. According to Activ Solar CEO Kaveh Ertefai, a “project of this scale means a radical change of solar energy development in Europe, while securing Ukraine’s position as renewable energy provider.”

In the news release, Worldwide News Ukraine said the current largest solar power plant in Europe “is located in Italy and produces 72 MW.” However, on its list of the world’s largest photovoltaic power plants, the website PV Resources puts that Italian plant, at Montalto di Castro, at 84.2 MW. In addition, it has a German plant at Finsterwalde at 80.2 MW.

Although it relies on Russia for three-quarters of its oil and natural gas requirements, according to the CIA World Factbook, Ukraine is an energy exporter, supplying electricity to Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia. Ukraine’s renewable energy projects are reportedly funded with profits the country earns from selling carbon emissions credits under the Kyoto Protocol. In 2009, Ukraine sold some its carbon emissions credits to Japan for $400 million. The Okhotnykovo solar farm is expected to further offset Ukraine’s carbon emissions by 80,000 tons.

Huff Post Green