Are Solar Landfills the Latest Gold Rush?

solar energy landfill panels

Solar Landfills, which are old landfills, which are given a new use as solar array renewable energy farms, the latest gold rush? It is beginning to us to look like they are.

Lots of people have spotted an opportunity to make money from solar energy by installing solar panel arrays on old landfills. It’s cheap land to rent, and the sites that were once quarries or previous industrial developments frequently already have sizeable electrical connections to the local power grid. That saves the cost of constructing the grid connections. It can also speed up projects which would otherwise have to wait many months for the power company to get around to connection the new panels into the local power grid.

If you keep yourself up to date in new technical developments in solar energy farms, by reading the media you will be amazed how many old landfills are being converted to solar farms to become solar landfills, just in the US and Canada.

Although the movement toward landfill solar, is common across the developed nations, it is probably the greatest in North America. Don’t believe us that solar landfills are big news?

As proof of the rapid growth in solar landfills, we provide below some extracts form the media about solar landfill development which have been published in just the last 6 months, in North America:

A new approach to energy: Using old landfill sites to generate solar power

Sprinkled throughout Southern California are large pockets of toxic land, vacant 100-plus-acre warts of unusable space — most of it old landfills. Now there’s a movement to rehabilitate those sites by using them for alternative energy projects, transforming huge hills of debris into generators of wind, methane gas and solar energy.

These efforts help cut greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, make a little cash for local communities and in some cases help clean up the site itself.

Milliken landfill is one of those sites. Closed since 1999, it rises like a small mountain near Ontario International Airport, with one of the best views in the area.

On the flat stretch of land at the top of the landfill, Mary Esper supervises the installation of a large solar project by the Brea-based PV Navigator. It’s expected to start generating electricity by the end of this year.

“It’s hard for a solar developer to find low-cost land,” Webster says. “The landfill sites are the highest opportunity for that.”

Most solar projects need large spaces, so in Southern California they tend to be sited in the desert, and the power has to be transmitted long distances to reach consumers. Since many of the old landfills and brownfields in the area exceed 100 acres, they could be a large source of nearby power, he says.

“Techno-ecological synergies”

UC Davis bioscience professor Rebecca Hernandez is a fan of these types of solar landfill projects. 

“We are interested in techno-ecological synergies,” says Hernandez, who researches the possible uses for California’s toxic sites. “That’s a term we use to describe mutually beneficial relationships between technological and ecological systems.”

In addition to solar production, some sites harness wind and landfill gasses like methane to run energy turbines, she says. And at a few of them, Hernandez says, that power has been used to help clean up the toxic areas and restore them.

“You’re using degraded land, you’re producing renewable energy and you’re bringing back some functioning to that parcel of land too,” she says. “It’s like a win-win-win scenario.”

David Doublet doesn’t have quite the same lofty goals. As a San Bernardino County public works engineer, Doublet appreciates the contribution to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, but he’s pleased the land is being used at all. 

He points out that the county gets monthly rent from solar operators, along with a small percentage of the money from solar energy generation. 

“It’s nominal,” Doublet says, “but it’s something we were not getting yesterday, something we were not getting in the 15 years [the landfill’s] been closed.”

The modest financial gain for municipalities and solar operators is one of the reasons this trend is taking off. via http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/11/18/66016/using-old-landfill-sites-to-generate-solar-power/ 

New Jersey Utility Makes Headway on Solar Program for Landfills

Newark, N.J.-based Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) hopes to get a positive ruling by the end of 2016 from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on its plans to develop 33-MW of grid-connected solar energy on existing landfills and brownfield locations.

In May, PSEG subsidiary Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) asked the BPU to expand the “Solar 4 All” program to allow the utility to invest approximately $275m to install another 100 MW (dc) of solar capacity on additional landfills and brownfields by the end of 2021.

The settlement PSEG reached is for $80m to build 33 MW on landfills and brownfields sites. PSEG Chairman, President and CEO Ralph Izzo discussed it with analysts Oct. 31 during a regular quarterly earnings conference call. via. Brownfields via New Jersey Utility Makes Headway on Solar Program for Landfills, Brownfields

Biggest solar project in Wisconsin goes online at coal-ash landfill

The largest solar project built to date in Wisconsin is generating power, Alliant Energy Corp. said Friday. The [solar landfill] project, installed atop a coal-ash landfill in the Town of Beloit, was built by Hanwha Q Cells for about $5 million. via Biggest solar project in Wisconsin goes online at coal-ash landfill

South Burlington Plans Solar Array Atop Closed Landfill to Become a Solar Landfill

South Burlington is planning to put a solar array on top of an old landfill to get renewable energy and financial savings out of a piece of land that can’t be used for much else, officials said Tuesday.

The city is working with Encore Renewable Energy, which is responsible for the build-out of the project, and Altus Power America, which will own the solar panels.

The plan calls for the installation of solar panels on top of a three-foot soil “cap” on top of the landfill. Environmental regulators at the Agency of Natural Resources signed off on the plan after they got assurances from developers that the project wouldn’t compromise that cap. via South Burlington Plans Solar Array Atop Closed Landfill 

From Landfill to Solar Farm: groSolar Changing the Game in SC

Traditionally, when you think ‘landfill,’ the first images that come to mind are not of rolling green pastures and brighter days ahead. That may soon shift, however, as groSolar, a leading utility-scale solar generation company, seeks to convert a waste dump to a 3.5 megawatt solar farm / solar landfill.  If successful, this project could provide a model for spreading solar energy installations to more places around the country.

According to the Charleston Regional Business Journal, a 35-acre landfill, that was once used as a county and hospital dump site in Spartanburg, SC, will soon become a new solar development and distribution facility. The Arkwright Landfill Solar Project is a partnership between groSolar, ReGenesis – a community redevelopment initiative spearheaded by SC State Representative Harold Mitchell, and Duke Energy. It is an outgrowth of the latest convening of the Clinton Global Initiative, and once complete, will provide enough solar landfill energy for 500 residences in Spartanburg.

An estimated $7 million project, $4.5 million has already been raised from private sources to fund the effort, and groSolar is partnering with Duke Energy to establish interconnection agreements and secure the additional $2.5 million needed to complete the transition – to a solar landfill. via From Landfill to Solar Farm: groSolar Changing the Game in SC

This is just a small sample of the landfill solar panel arrays which are being built, and the way the rate of solar landfill development is accelerating.

Maybe there is a landfill near you that could be used as a solar landfill in this way. If you are a businessman with an eye for making a few bucks, you also might want to consider talking to your local landfill owners about making money from solar energy by installing solar panel arrays on their old landfills for them.

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