Solar Power Plants Are More Missile Resistant

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen terrible images coming out of Ukraine. Broken homes and apartments, injured people (especially the children), and every other image of death and destruction has been heart rending. But, there’s one interesting piece of good news that came out of the country earlier this month proving that it’s pretty difficult to take out a solar power plant.

On first glance, the damage to the Solar Generation’s Merefa power plant looks horrific. There are solar panels and parts of solar panels lying everywhere and a large crater in the ground deep enough for a man to stand in, and then some. It looks like a bomb went off, largely because a bomb did go off. It was attached to a Russian ballistic missile that had been aimed at the plant.

You can see both the damage and surveillance footage of the missile strike itself in this video:

“This type of damage is typical for a rocket or projectile hitting solar power plants in Ukraine,” Ignatiev said. “It should be noted that the station was built on a swampy area using geo-screws, so the supporting structures of the station were damaged locally as a result of the missile attack.”

But, according to PV Magazine, it’s hard to keep a good solar plant down. Crews at the 3.9-megawatt plant quickly went out, disconnected the damaged rows of cells, and reconnected as many of the working rows back together as they could. The result? 1.8 megawatts of solar power still goes into the Ukrainian grid, which is almost half of the power the plant originally produced.

“Staff was able to disconnect the damaged strings and the 1.8 MW of power is now providing clean, green electricity to the grid,” said Stanislav Ignatiev, the CEO of the company that owns the facility, Solar Generation.

The Merefa plant is located about 30 kilometers south of Kharkiv, and supplies clean power to the City of Merefa. For the solar nerds and professionals, it has Talesun 325 W PV modules and 27 kW Fronius ECO 27.0-3-S string inverters.

One key thing we can learn from this missile attack is how robust and resilient solar power generation can be. By being able to take a lickin’ and keep on half-way tickin’, this solar power plant is able to do something most fossil fuel plants probably wouldn’t be able to do after a missile strike. If this had been a coal or natural gas plant, things like coolant loops, fuel supply lines, and other critical components would probably mean that even in a multi-turbine plant, little to no electricity would be able to come from the plant for weeks or months.

For the solar plants? Crews can go get it back to generating at least some power, if not most of it. Then, repairs can happen while the rest of the plant keeps supplying vital electrical power to the civilian population. Add in that there are usually a large number of plants spread out over a wider geographic area, and it’s difficult not only for warfare, but for natural disasters to completely take down an area’s electricity.

So, we have yet another reason that renewable energy can be good for national security, and that’s as true in any other country as it is in Ukraine.

Featured image provided by Ukrainian war crime investigators and Solar Generation.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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