Landfills, surely once full they’ve served their purpose. Full of those items we deem no longer useful, these vast sites are capped with no second life in sight. But with sustainability top of mind that is no longer the case. Capped landfills have become increasingly attractive locations for new solar power installations. Some may be surprised by this trend but with the number of active landfills on the decrease, unused land is subsequently on the increase with EPA estimating up to 7,400 closed landfills across the United States.
Solar farms require both available land and connection to the grid, landfills offer both. Projects like these offer landfill sites a second chance in a shift to renewable energy, and accelerating that change is what Wood is all about. With this ever-increasing need, solar on landfills compared to solar on existing open space makes for a preferable solution and protects existing green land. These unique and increasingly popular projects further enable our commitment to delivering cost effective clean energy, through the adoption of innovative approaches to design and implementation.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is one of the most mature options, presenting opportunities aplenty to establish sustainable solar solutions which maximise the use of otherwise unusable land in communities, whilst also creating local career opportunities.
In recent years, our team at Wood have seized the opportunity to lead solar landfill projects with diverse experience in landfill design and closure, geotechnical evaluation, environmental assessment, and site remediation. This unique position allows our team to address the unique engineering requirements for installation of solar projects of this nature, from 1.0 to over 3 megawatt solar photovoltaic generating systems.
The unique perspective
These projects present a unique perspective into the solar industry, managing challenging properties for clients with the need for extensive engineering and construction know-how required to design and build renewable energy systems, especially on sites with very challenging geotechnical and environmental issues. Understanding the technical challenges associated with these projects is critical to unlocking the potential of these closed landfill sites.
- Bias towards fixed tilt systems which are less sensitive to output reduction due to settlement tilting
- Flexible and adjustable panel racking system designs
- Use of flexible conduit systems or adjustable conduit supports
- Rack and wiring design details to facilitate cost-effective panel removal/replacement
- Careful planning of onsite construction traffic for system installation
- Planning of permanent access roads for system operations and maintenance
Continuing the unstoppable momentum towards a lower-carbon energy environment we have partnered with several clients on over a dozen solar PV systems on landfills throughout the United States including:
- 1.59 MW solar PV system, Acton Landfill in Acton, MA
- 1.502 MW solar PV system, Westford Street Landfill in Lowell, MA
- 3.0 MW solar PV system, Scituate Landfill in Scituate, MA
- 1.512 MW solar PV system, Sudbury Sand Hill Landfill in Sudbury, MA
- 1.263 MW solar PV system in Braintree, MA
- 3.0 MW solar PV system, Pill Hill Landfill in Bernards Township, NJ
Installing solar projects on landfills is a complex endeavour, with elements of permitting, construction, and maintenance completely unique and not required for a typical solar installation. Our teams partner with clients in the development of solar PV systems on numerous closed municipal landfills, ground-mounted sites, and carport systems, contributing to both of our collective climate change aspirations and the circular economy.
Our ability to assemble comprehensive solutions tapping into the diverse expertise of our teams, enables a unique insight complimented by a deep understanding of the technical and regulatory demands associated with developing systems on landfills and contaminated properties. However, finding productive uses for closed landfills is not a focus contained to the U.S., it is a global solution due to the stringent environmental monitoring and remediation requirements worldwide. Redeveloping these sites for a renewable energy generation, offers an economical and environmentally beneficial solution contributing to a sustainable energy future.