Installing solar energy on disused landfills is generally seen as a win-win solution for waste and energy management.
Yes, converting a disadvantageous infrastructure for disposed of waste to the expansion of renewable energies in the power generation portfolio is certainly associated with challenges. It also offers opportunities.
- Renewable solar energy targets help restore and stabilize degraded land.
- Rather than occupying land for ground-mounted photovoltaic systems that can alter the rural environment, solar desensitizes the community's aesthetic complaints about land use through abandoned landfills.
- Solar over abandoned landfills provides a large, open space and does not compete with agricultural or other productive uses.
- The installation of a PV system is made easier by the existing road network and enables the systems of the system to be transported quickly and easily.
- Closed landfills are usually secured, fenced in and monitored, which is also required for solar PV systems.
- If basic site monitoring and security is already in place, the relevant costs are significantly reduced.
- Due to their typical location far from environmental protection areas such as mountains or forests, their transformation does not affect fragile ecosystems.
The US is quite active in the solar landfill field, hosting completed solar photovoltaic landfill (SPVS) projects and having others in the planning stage.
- The earliest installation was the 276 kWp project in Paulsboro, New Jersey, which has been providing power to the site and has been in operation since 2002.
- By 2012, there were 15 SPVS landfill projects in operation in New Jersey (total output: 17.5 MWp), and there were an additional 27.5 MWp in other states.
- Republic Services unveiled a total of 41,000 solar panels in three closed landfills in Massachusetts in September 2017. The 13.5 MW project can supply an estimated 1,900 households with electricity and was designed for a lifespan of 40 years. Soltage was behind the project with investments from Basalt Infrastructure Partners and Eastern Bank. The projects benefited from a favorable regulatory climate and incentives for renewable energy projects in Massachusetts.
- Two landfill solar projects are noteworthy in Ohio. One in Cuyahoga County is a 4 MW project owned and operated by IGS Solar, a commercial and residential solar company, and an affiliate of IGS Energy, an independent retail utility. The solar project can provide more than 5,000,000 kWh of clean solar power annually for facilities owned by the district. In addition, Central Ohio Solid Waste Agency and developer BQ Energy Development LLC are getting final approvals from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for their plan to build a $ 60 million solar farm on the 173-acre closed model landfill in Jackson Township to be erected in front of Jackson Pike near I-71 after much of the planning and public preparatory hearings have been completed.
- Source Renewables filed with the City of Buffalo, NY in 2021 to land the Marilla Street landfill for a distributed generation solar farm. The project would consist of two 5 MW solar panels that are expected to produce enough electricity to power more than 2,500 households a year. The property used to be a waste disposal area of the former Republic Steel Co. for steelmaking and was sold in 2002. According to Source Renewables, the proposed solar project will give the community the opportunity to use the property to generate clean electricity, create jobs and increase tax revenue, and save money for residents who cannot install their own solar system.
- Converting a Houston landfill into the largest urban solar farm in the US will be testament to the power of renewable energy and recapture the center of the Sunnyside community in Houston, which is historically a black neighborhood.
Determining the optimal location for solar systems over abandoned landfills is easiest for landfills with advantageous properties – large unshaded area, hydrogeological conditions, terrain stability, current land cover and proximity to transmission infrastructure – in order to optimize solar power generation.
Announcement of a new project to cover 2 closed landfills with solar systems
SunPower Corp. announced new projects with Baltimore County to cover two closed landfills with solar systems. These projects are expected to generate more than 30 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, the equivalent of the electricity used by 1/3 of the county's urban buildings, including government facilities. The Hernwood and Parkton closed landfill projects are the first major solar energy projects in Baltimore County's history and mark a new milestone for the county in fighting climate change.
Under Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), the county pays $ 0 upfront while SunPower and its financiers pay for the arrays. Over the next 25 years, the district will pay a fixed flat rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) for solar energy, which is intended to save millions in electricity costs. According to Maryland's “Aggregate Net Metering” rule, Baltimore Gas & Electric counts the solar energy generated in the landfills against electrical loads in other county buildings.
“We are proud to take a bold step forward to ensure that Baltimore County continues to lead the nation in renewable energy and helps create a greener, cleaner future for our communities,” said Johnny Olszewski, Baltimore executive County. “Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our long-term health and prosperity. We are therefore grateful for this partnership with SunPower to transform these locations into productive alternative energy sources, further reduce Baltimore County's carbon footprint, and help us meet our renewable energy goals. “
Along with other sustainability initiatives, the Baltimore County's solar project is designed to help the county meet its sustainability goals. County Executive Olszewski signed an executive order setting an aggressive new target to complete future renewable energy projects that will generate electricity equivalent to 100% of Baltimore County's electricity needs by 2026 and 125% by 2030.
The projects are now entering the planning and approval phase. Construction is expected to start in 2022 and should be fully functional by 2023. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) greenhouse gas calculator, the 43 million kWh generated annually by the projects will capture the same amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide as 40,000 acres of US forest – almost the size of Washington, DC.
“Electricity savings from solar energy can help communities invest more money in our schools, parks and community centers. We applaud Baltimore County for transforming otherwise underutilized land into productive solar farms that will enable them to meet their ambitious sustainability goals while significantly improving the county's budget, “said Eric Potts, executive vice president, Commercial Direct, SunPower .
Image courtesy of SunPower Instagram
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