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ČEZ Group develops solution to build solar power plants on former mining sites

Engineers from PRODECO, a company from Czech utility Group ČEZ, have been developing a solution to build solar power plants on infertile soil, in brownfields, and in areas in which industrial mining has been discontinued.

In pursuing its vision of Clean Energy for Tomorrow, ČEZ Group will build new photovoltaic power plants with a capacity of thousands of MW by 2030.

“We place our photovoltaic plants primarily on infertile soil, in brownfields and in areas in which industrial mining has been discontinued,” said Jan Kalina, member of the Board of Directors and head of the Renewable and Conventional Energy Division. “Before life returns to such places, they can be useful for generating renewable energy from the sun. The soil deposited in spoil heaps is loose, it only settles gradually and it may take decades for it to stabilise. We must adapt the technology used for building photovoltaic plants, and our goal is to behave in a sustainable manner and not to needlessly increase our carbon footprint.”

If the panels were mounted on standard structures, they would jam and crack. The challenge therefore was to come up with a new solution that would be both fast and come with minimal costs. A solution that offered itself was to use technologies that are already available in strip mines.

“We used the central sections of conveyor belts, which offer great advantages: they are robust, because they are designed for heavy-duty operation, and they feature side rails that are now used for transport along the plain,” summarised Luboš Straka, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of PRODECO. “This makes these structures fit for any unstable subsoil or subsoil encumbered with an environmental burden, as they only stand on the surface, are extremely stable and they offer a non-invasive method of building photovoltaic power plants.”

Once the extracted material settles, the structure tilts as a whole and the stress is therefore not transferred to the panels. Thousands of these modules will be available in the Bílina Mine alone, after coal mining is phased out. Several pilot structures have already been deployed on a reclaimed area in close proximity to the Bílina Mine extraction area. For all of last year, experts used it to test how photovoltaic panels cope with subsoil movement.

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