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Landfills Become Sites for Solar Installations

Tuesday, December 11th 2012 2:22 PM
By GetSolar Staff.
Landfills Become Sites for Solar Installations Solar installations aren't just for rooftops anymore. Some cities around the United States are becoming more creative about choosing new sites for solar energy projects, like landfills. Municipalities in New Jersey have recently announced plans to convert land once used to dump residents' trash into a renewable energy project. And many other locations have already done so.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a program specifically geared towards identifying potentially contaminated lands and landfills that would be suitable for renewable energy projects, including solar photovoltaic installations. As of October of 2012, 49 solar PV projects have been installed on these lands, including seven in New Jersey, nine in Massachusetts and eight in California.

The Summit Voice reported on the EPA's "Re-powering America's Land Initiative," saying landfills make ideal locations for solar projects because there is often little opposition to installations and it takes less time to get a project permitted.

"In particular, the EPA is eyeing closed landfills as places to locate solar installment," the article stated. "Such sites may be suitable because there’s not much else that can be done with them and because they are already located close to roads and, often, transmission lines. Old gas stations where soils are polluted by oil, and old mining sites could also be suitable."

New Jersey Landfills Become Solar Sites
Sondek Park, a landfill in South Brunswick, may become a site for a New Jersey solar installation, according to NJ.com. The township recently considered a 3-megawatt solar power project for the landfill that could slash $126,000 off the town's energy bill every year. The town currently spends $2.4 million annually on energy.

However, officials not only hope that the solar project will reduce energy costs, but also help the area become more self-sufficient when it comes to energy costs. The Sondek Park landfill spans nearly 70 acres, and the PV installation would take up about 12 acres, Patch reported.

Town official Ron Schmalz said he is hopeful the project will go forward, and that the state legislature will work out a "few kinks" in its alternative energy laws that would allow a project like this to be developed.

"They need to pass legislation to put that funding back in place so if we feed the grid we'll be able to get credit for it," he said, according to the Patch article. "That would open up so many things, so it's really critical that state gets that done."

The Edgeboro landfill in East Brunswick, New Jersey has 9,000 solar panels on site to produce 4.3 megawatts of electricity. The Star-Ledger reported that the rows of solar panels sit on the south slope of the landfill, and the site began operating in 2010.

Military Uses Inactive Landfills for Solar Project
In March 2011, the U.S. Marine Corps had a 1.4 megawatt ground-mounted solar project installed on top an inactive landfill near Base Camp Pendleton outside San Diego. TechCrunch reported the PV installation includes 225 solar panels and produces 2,400 megawatt-hours annually, which is enough electricity to power 400 homes. The California solar installation  helps to save the Marine Corps at least $336,000 every year on utility bills.

The project will also help the U.S. Department of Defense reach its goal of having 25 percent of its electric needs met from renewable sources by 2025, according to TechCrunch.

The U.S. Army also converted a closed landfill in Colorado to a solar power site. The 2-megawatt project spans 12 acres and generates 3,200 megawatt-hours of power annually, meeting the about 2 percent of the electricity needs of Fort Carson, a military base near Colorado Springs, the Army reported.

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