Dirty Landfills Providing Clean Solar Energy


Solar has continued to gain popularity on land that is traditionally thought of as low quality. When solar is installed over contaminated land or on low-production farmland, it brings value to what would otherwise be unused space. And this kind of land provides a site for solar that is not controversial, unlike with some farmland and scenic countryside.

Solar sites on landfills, in particular, are gaining traction in the market. Large installations have recently sprung up on landfills in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Additional sites throughout the country are continuously popping up. Here’s a look at four recent sites in Kentucky, New Jersey, and New York.

Fort Campbell, Kentucky solar array

The largest solar array in Kentucky is currently being built at the Fort Campbell army base. The array will cover 20 acres of capped landfill when complete and will have a capacity of 5 MW.

Kenya Stump, Kentucky’s assistant director of the Division of Renewable Energy, was quoted by WFPL News as saying, “The landfill itself wasn’t in a position to be utilized since it was already capped and just sitting there, so they had the space. So the array actually fits perfectly with the abandoned landfill.”

This is actually the second solar array located on a military base in Kentucky, with the first at Fort Knox. That array has two MW of capacity. Both of these installations can be at least partly attributed to President Obama’s goal of having 20% of the federal government’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Stump told WFPL that the military has taken a lead on this. She said, “We’re seeing a lot of our military affairs and military installations kind of taking the lead on renewable projects. And they really view it as energy security.”

Fort Campbell’s array is expected to be complete and operational by the end of the year.

South New Jersey solar arrays

PSE&G is constructing two of its largest solar arrays on capped landfills in South New Jersey. The landfills are located in Bordentown and Deptford. These arrays are part of PSE&G’s Solar 4 All campaign, which aims to develop 125 MW of solar capacity directly tied to New Jersey’s grid. Both of these landfills were closed in the 1980s and have be sitting unused since due to site contamination.

“Landfills like Parklands offer prime opportunities for large-scale solar development that benefits New Jersey and our customers,” said Joe Forline of PSE&G to the Courier Post. “And by connecting projects like these directly to the electric grid, we ensure that all of our electric customers are sharing in the benefits of solar generation.”

The Parklands landfill at Bordentown covers 98 acres. Solar panels will cover 40 of these once complete this winter, for a capacity of 10.14 MW. The Kinsley landfill will have panels covering 30 acres, and will have a larger capacity of 11.18 MW upon its completion next year, according to the Courier Post.

Saratoga Springs, New York array

The Weibel Avenue landfill in Saratoga Springs, New York, is set to receive a solar array now that a successful bid has come through. SunEdison will construct, operate, and own the panels.

The array is funded by a portion of the $1 billion NY-Sun program. Saratoga Springs was one of the 142 projects selected to receive funding, and was initially proposed to the city council by Sustainable Saratoga. Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan told the Saratogian News, “I would like to thank Sustainable Saratoga for its vision and support. Its guidance has been invaluable in making this project a success and we look forward to a continued partnership with this important organization.”

A power purchase agreement still needs to be completed, but by locking in the price for the next 20 years a significant savings for the city is expected.

Madigan told the Saratogian News that phase two of the project may have the possibility of a citizen buy-in program, pending approval and state legislation. Under the program, residents would have the ability to purchase a panel and generate solar energy at the landfill, where they otherwise may not have that opportunity.

This would effectively create a form of community solar at the landfill site. These types of installations have been gaining popularity by allowing people who do not live at a residence suitable for a solar installation to still invest in solar.