Placing Solar Energy on Closed Landfills

Solar Panels On A Landfill

The management of landfills has sparked many innovative ideas. For instance, landfill-gas-to-fuel projects capture and repurpose methane emissions. These operations have been around for decades.

The production of solar energy on closed landfills is a fairly new development, but one that has been gaining a lot of attention recently. Capped landfills can create an ideal environment for solar projects. But these are complex tasks that demand a lot of preparation and planning.

If you have an interest in solar photovoltaic (PV) energy on closed landfills, keep reading. The information below explains the basics of landfill capping and the nuances of solar project development on them. It also presents advice on how to get the ball rolling on these green investment opportunities.

What Is a Capped Landfill?

A municipal solid waste landfill is an area of excavated land that receives household waste. Currently, there are about 2,000 landfills in operation across the United States. They are the most prevalent form of waste disposal.

Federal regulations determine what materials you can deposit in landfills. Once they are full, rules also dictate maintenance practices of the landfill. For starters, this entails sealing them off.

As the name suggests, capped landfills have a clay or synthetic seal installed over them. This acts as a barrier between the waste materials and the surface. It shields the surrounding area from any contaminants.

Although this was not always the case, current landfills are already sealed from the bottom. This is to prevent contaminants from leaching into the soil and reaching groundwater.

Once a landfill is completely capped, it can no longer receive waste materials. But technicians must monitor and maintain the landfill for many years after capping, to ensure its integrity.

Why Closed Landfills?

The first capped landfill solar project came online in 2002. It is a 276 kWp project in New Jersey that is still in operation today.

There are several reasons that solar energy on closed landfills is increasing in popularity. For one, closed landfills have little purpose or use.

Developing capped landfills alleviates the need for spaces that you can use for other purposes. In this way, PV landfill projects do not compete with agricultural or other local industries for land use.

Regardless of whether private companies or government agencies own and operate landfills, they must meet environmental standards. For one, they are often located away from environmentally fragile areas. You can assume any regulatory roadblocks have already been addressed.

Locating solar projects on landfills also can sidestep reservations about the unsightliness of solar farms. Many pristine rural communities voice such concerns. Adding a solar project does nothing to worsen the look of a landfill; in fact, it likely improves the aesthetic.

Landfills usually have security measures, like fencing and monitoring equipment, in place. Solar projects also need these mechanisms. Their presence relieves the need to install them, which can help keep installation costs down.

Finally, there are plenty of opportunities. There are more than 10,000 closed landfills available for these purposes today.

Site Factors to Consider

Not all landfills are suitable for solar panel projects. There are three major factors to consider when making this determination.

The first one is the age of the landfill. Older ones existed under less strict regulations. These include construction standards and permissible materials. The newer the landfill, the less likely you will need to address environmental and maintenance concerns.

The slope of the landfill surface is another factor. The flatter it is, the simpler the solar panel design. This is not to say that you cannot construct a solar farm on a sloped surface, but it may warrant more preparation.

Finally, the space available for construction is also a facet. How much flat surface area is required depends on the size of your project. For most solar projects, you need at least 20 or 25 acres of accessible, usable space.

The Development Process

Solar projects on capped landfills have unique permitting, construction, and maintenance requirements. These are above and beyond those for typical ground-mounted projects.

Solar projects are not optimal for every capped landfill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has guidelines for siting solar projects on solid waste landfills.

Also, there could be local opposition to the project. This can include concerns about landfill integrity.

Examples are that the solar project might cause damage to the landfill cap. Communities may voice concerns about possible contamination of the surrounding environment.

The good news is that you can avoid these issues by partnering with experienced contractors and experts. Collaborating with the right developers will help you address any apprehensions about the safety of the project.

Also, be sure to have a comprehensive understanding of any solar incentives that exist in the area where your program is going to be located. Since solar farms can create new jobs, state and local tax incentives can help get the program off the ground.

You also might investigate the prospect of public-private partnerships. State governments work with local schools to ensure workers for your industry. They might offer financial incentives for locating in a particular area. Also, these relationships can help guarantee that your project will get off the ground.

Learn More About Solar Energy on Closed Landfills

Now that you have a better understanding of solar energy on closed landfills, you can determine if these projects are right for you. These initiatives are beneficial from an environmental, energy, and economic standpoint.

At Ridgeline, we have experienced professionals that can tackle any solar project. From supervisors to crew, we use only highly skilled and vetted staff to make your project a success. Reach out to us today for a free quote or to speak to someone about our services.