Guest post by Joe Harrison, Senior Project Developer at Borrego Solar
The only active landfill in Vermont, located in Coventry, Vt., is going solar—in stride with the rising trend of landfill solar development across the United States.
The 2.7-megawatt (MW) system, which was designed and is currently being built by Borrego Solar and financed by a joint venture between Greenwood Energy and Soltage called Soltage Greenwood, will be installed on the landfill site’s buffer zone, alongside an existing 8 MW gas-to-energy generating facility that utilizes the methane captured from both the active and capped sections of the landfill.
The entire site is owned by Casella Waste Systems, and the ground-mounted solar array consisting of 9,018 panels is expected to generate approximately 3,199 megawatt-hours annually, enough to power 261 homes for an entire year. The power generated will be sold to Vermont Electric Power Producers under the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development (SPEED) Standard Offer Program—one of the nation’s first feed-in-tariff programs. Solar energy capacity has tripled in Vermont in the last three years, and the state currently ranks first in solar jobs per capita, nationwide.
The project required zero upfront costs from Casella Waste Systems thanks to a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Soltage Greenwood.
Landfills: A Rising Leader in U.S. Solar Adoption
From 1988 to 2009, more than 6,000 landfills in the United States were capped, and many of those sites have been sitting idle. Now, both publicly-owned and privately-owned landfills have increasingly turned to solar in order to put unused land to productive, revenue-generating use through land leases and/or energy savings through solar.
On both a state and national level, environmental departments are actively promoting the development of solar on landfills by assessing potential sites, developing educational tools and providing funding. Massachusetts has been a pioneer state in embracing landfill solar development, despite the fact that only seven percent of landfills are in the Northeast. Altogether, the dozens of recent landfill projects in Massachusetts total more than 78 MW of solar energy production.
Landfill solar projects are picking up, and demand for financing landfill installations through PPAs is also rising. There is still tremendous potential for more development, given that the majority of landfills are located in the sunniest regions of the country—nearly 40 percent are located in the West, and 35 percent are located in the South—and typically in states with policies that support solar.
Landfills and their buffer lands make especially compelling locations for solar project development because they are generally close to interconnection systems and are built on already disrupted and cleared land that typically can’t be used for more traditional commercial development, as in the typical case of a capped landfill, or in vacant buffer zones, such as in the case of the Coventry site.