The Ukrainian government has partnered with a German renewables company to build a 1GW wind farm in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

The government, its transmission system operator Ukrenergo and Notus Energy signed a joint declaration of intent for the project on the sidelines of a visit from German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock to Ukraine.

Notus said that it had found in an initial feasibility study that the exclusion zone – an uninhabited 30km radius around the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the famous 1986 meltdown – could host up to 1GW of wind energy, a scale that would be among the largest in Europe.

That energy would power around 800,000 homes in Kyiv and the surrounding area, said Notus.

The partners have agreed to examine how to proceed with the project, including suitable areas for the farm based on radiation and environmental impact assessments.

Notus said the location is ideal for several reasons, including that, by upgrading old infrastructure around Chernobyl, energy could be delivered directly to Kyiv, which is around 150km away.

There is also a low risk of social or ecological barriers for the farm given the exclusion zone is uninhabited.

Ukraine’s deputy ecology minister Oleksandr Krasnolutskyi said that, “even before the full-scale invasion, we had strategic plans to transform the Chornobyl zone into a recovery zone.”

The war “hasn't changed” those plans, although they were “temporarily suspended.”

He added that the partnership with Notus is a “positive example” for international investors that the exclusion zone is a promising area for the development of renewables.

His ministry said that, in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the exclusion zone could “become a symbol of clean, climate-friendly energy, providing Kyiv with green electricity.”

Hannes Helm, managing director of Notus in Ukraine, said the farm would make a substantial contribution to the expansion of renewables in the country and strengthen its energy security.

The Chernobyl plant was seized by Russian forces early in their invasion of Ukraine last year, however they abandoned it five weeks later.

Foreign minister Baerbock was making her fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, with a focus of this visit being Ukraine’s energy supply.

This would not be the first renewable energy plant in the exclusion zone. In 2018, a 1MW solar farm was installed there, providing enough power for around 2,000 homes.