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Solar Development Greens Up Mounds of Trash

Landfill top filled with solar panels
Landfill top filled with solar panels

Green Mountain Power may not be the best name for a power developer that covers a large area with black solar cells.  Just the same, residents of Rutland, Vermont are glad that the solar developer has come to break ground in their town.  The company is putting up a 2MW photovoltaic array on what was their former 9.5 acre (3.8 hectare) solid waste landfill.

There are a whole lot of sanitary landfills that have been closed – estimated at around 10,000.  Because the land is unstable and contaminated, that’s a whole lot of unusable land.  However, most of this land already has access roads that would make them ideal for development.  It also helps that a lot of them have access to the grid, which in the past provided lighting for dumping at night.  The serendipity at which all these factors converged like flies to, well you know, is why the idea of converting them into solar farms is catching on.  And that idea is starting to smell of success.

Massachusetts, in particular, has been doing this on a huge scale, with 78 MW of solar power on former landfills.  They achieved this by providing incentives to improve the economics of solar development on former dump sites.  The costs of putting solar array racks on landfills is more expensive than on other sites.  Landfills need to get “capped” – that is it gets covered with a geomembrane so that harmful elements from the decomposing trash doesn’t escape into the atmosphere.  This geomembrane is covered with sand and then vegetation to complete the cap.  It comes without saying that the cap shouldn’t be punctured, hence the racks of the solar array to be installed over them should be specially designed, adding 25 cents per watt to the system price.

Borrego Solar, which has been active in converting former dumpsites in Massachusetts into solar power plants is lobbying in New York so that the same incentives can be put in place  there.  This is to accelerate the development of Staten Island, the world’s largest landfill at 2,200 acres (1,000 hectares), into a 10MW solar farm.

Just the same, other States are following the trend.  Vermont is building a 2.7MW on the buffer zone of the Coventry landfill, which is still being used.  Another is planned in Rutland, Vermont and will include 4MW of battery storage that not only acts to shave peak power demand, but also provides emergency power to a nearby emergency shelter, the Rutland High School.

The Garden State also approved a proposal to convert 800 of its closed dump sites into solar power plants.

Although states in the Northeast is where most of the action is happening, there is so much more potential elsewhere.  Based on a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there are 15 million acres ( 6.8 million hectares) of dump sites across the US that can be used.  To accelerate development, the US Environmental Protection Agency has pre-identified 1,600 former dump sites for solar development.

Hopefully other states will come on board and sweeten the offer for solar developers.  When that happens, mounds of brown trash will be replaced by mountains of green solar power.

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  1. These types of projects should consider the use of new higher efficiency, lower cost Hyper X 2 Bifacial solar technology. Instead of boxy looking 1 1/2 to 2 inch thick framed Gen 1 solar panels, these new higher performance Gen 2 solar panels are only 1/4 inch thin and are made with a stronger, see through, glass on glass, frameless, construction that allows sunlight to pass through and reflect off the roof’s surface, thus illuminating the backside of the double sided solar cells, producing additional power. 

    A mere 10% boost in reflected light can raise this 340 watt solar panel’s output to 374 watts without taking up anymore roof space. New Hyper X 2 solar offers a better PTC to STC ratio “Real World” performance according to the California Energy Commission’s performance rating listings than over 100 of SunPower’s solar panel models. 

    And they offer a very high 92.88% PTC to STC performance ratio. Hyper X 2 also offers a heat resistant -0.31%/degree C temperature coefficient for better performance in warm/hot climates. And when it comes to aesthetics, nothing even comes close to Hyper X 2’s glass on glass, see through, frameless construction. 

    With N-type mono-crystalline bifacial cells for double sided power production, up to a 21.5% efficiency rating, superior aesthetics, and a price that outcompetes the solar lease and PPA company’s offerings, nothing compares to Hyper X 2.

    • There’s no argument in using higher efficiency solar cells for solar plants, I just hope that Hyper X 2 offers a great financial package to the developer. Sometimes large scale renewable energy project equipment choices boil down to economics because of the huge upfront costs involved. Well, at least that was my experience with geothermal power…


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