Closed landfills could have new life as solar energy sources

Recent data published by World Resources Institute and the Resource Management Institute (RMI) found that local governments across the United States harvested significant amounts of energy from solar power plants built in closed landfills last year. The report found a total of 21 landfills that had been used to generate 207 megawatts of solar power. This shows a 10-fold increase in the energy produced from these lands in recent years.

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According to a Brightfield RMI report, there is huge potential to increase this production nationwide. Available landfills could produce up to 60 gigawatts of solar power, enough power to meet all of South Carolina’s electricity needs.

Related: The Old Landfill Is Reborn As A Beautiful Park And Wildlife Habitat

This increase in electricity production is fueling a growing interest from local governments to produce clean energy. Traditionally, landfills have been left unattended, mostly locked since they became habitable. Although green vegetation may grow on the fields, most of them are environmentally classified as brownfields. There are situations where these areas have been converted into golf courses. However, even such a move does not support environmental recovery in any way, compared to solar power generation.

With the production of solar energy, landfills can easily be converted into useful places. The reason why solar panels work well with such land is that there is no need to invest more in terms of land development for solar energy. In addition, most landfills are established near access roads and electricity supply lines. As a result, harnessing solar energy from these facilities can be easier.

Notable recent projects include a Brightfield deal in Columbus, Ohio that will generate up to 50 megawatts of power when complete. A similar project was also announced in January 2021 to be developed on 240 acres of land in Houston, Texas.

“There’s more due diligence, there’s more design and engineering, and people’s time needs to be spent on sufficient planning,” says Matthew Popkin, urban transformation manager at RMI. “If you misplace a stake in the grass in a random field, the dirt could suffer. If you put a stake in a landfill the wrong way, the community could suffer.

Although the repurposing of closed landfills is not something new, most of the other adopted uses are quite expensive and risky. Previously, landfills were converted into wildlife parks, but this always came at a cost. Besides the heavy investment in creating a wildlife park, there are also health risks of landfills for animals. Solar offers a much better and more viable solution that should be considered at the federal level.

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