Have you considered a landfill for your next utility-scale solar power development project? Increasing renewable energy standards, along with decreasing land availability, are making closed landfills an attractive option for utility companies that want to develop clean energy projects. But how do you know if a landfill is suitable for solar development?
Consider these factors when evaluating a landfill’s potential to support utility-scale solar power projects:
A ground surface that settles differentially is not suitable for a solar project, and typical municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills can see significant settlement as waste degrades, especially right after closure. Older landfills typically have less settlement, making them a better choice for a solar installation. Industrial waste or coal combustion residuals (CCR) landfills may not be as prone to settlement issues as MSW landfills and can be more suitable for solar installation immediately after closure.
Landfill caps are designed to keep the waste in and liquids out, and typical caps are not designed to account for the solar panels, electrical conduits, and foundations associated with a solar power project. But with a few modifications to the solar design, the typical landfill cap can accommodate the infrastructure of a solar power project. You can replace a traditional post-driven foundation with an at-grade ballast foundation and run electrical conduits underground within the soil zone above the landfill’s geomembrane liner, or at-grade.
Landfills are typically closed with around 4:1 (25%) final slopes. However, some landfill owners are designing their final cap grades with alternative end uses in mind, with flatter slopes that will facilitate future development. These proactive landfill owners can help you maximize the number of panels and subsequently the revenue stream from your solar power project.
Like all power generation projects, you need a suitable interconnection point to connect the generated power to the electrical grid. CCR landfills are often positioned near existing power plants, and therefore near the infrastructure necessary for a suitable interconnection point. MSW or industrial landfills may be located in rural areas where interconnection is more challenging.
State and local regulators may still be catching up to the idea of putting solar power projects on landfills. The projects bring together a unique mix of solid waste, zoning, electrical, and other regulatory requirements and approvals. Be aware of the regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction and, if in doubt, reach out to your local regulator.
More and more landfills are being developed with solar power projects in mind, and you may be increasingly looking at alternative spaces for your next project. Will your next solar development be on a landfill? Contact SCS Engineers to evaluate a landfill’s solar feasibility today. Find a professional near you, or send us an email at .
In 2016 the 2.3 MW Rock River solar project near Beloit became the largest solar farm in Wisconsin. Do you need help evaluating a landfill for your next utility-scale solar power project? Contact Eric Nelson, SCS’s Utility National Expert.
Meet SCS Engineers professionals at RENEW Wisconsin’s 2020 Renewable Energy Summit in Monona Terrace, Madison, Wisconsin, January 16.
The summit will bring together renewable energy industry experts, utility leaders, government officials, students and advocates for the 9th Annual Renewable Energy Summit. This year’s theme is 2020 Vision: The Path to 100% Clean Energy, and attendees will discuss Wisconsin’s renewable energy future. Learn, network, and prepare for 2020 as Wisconsin’s renewable energy landscape advances to make a better place to live, work, and play.
Solar Ready CCR Site Closures Help Energy Companies Move Toward a Sustainable Future
Electricity is the one big energy source that can be free of carbon emissions. You can make it from the sun. You can make it from the wind. Tap the heat of the Earth, hydropower. While all utilities are moving in a sustainable, environmentally friendly direction, Aliant Energy stands out for making progress and keeping rates reasonable for consumers.
At the recent USWAG Workshop on Decommissioning, Repurposing & Expansion of Utility Assets held October 2019, Eric Nelson presented on the opportunities for solar generation at closed CCR sites and provided an overview of civil and geotechnical considerations when redeveloping closed sites as solar generating assets. His presentation demonstrated these considerations through the use of a case study.
SCS Engineers has assisted Alliant Energy with the design and/or construction of multiple coal combustion residual (CCR) surface impoundment closures. Two of the completed closures are the former Rock River Generating Station in Beloit, Wisconsin, and the M.L. Kapp Generating Station in Clinton, Iowa.
Both sites were closed by incorporating Alliant Energy’s vision to create “solar ready” sites. The Rock River site is now home to just over 2 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity, which was developed on the footprint of the now-closed on-site landfill and ash ponds. Although no solar assets have been developed at the site, the M.L. Kapp ash pond closure represents another opportunity for Alliant Energy to repurpose a closed ash pond for clean power.
Two additional closure designs are in process that incorporates similar elements, making them available for future solar generating asset development.
Eric J. Nelson, PE, is a Vice President of SCS Engineers and one of our National Experts for Electric Utilities. He is an experienced engineer and hydrogeologist.
SCS Energy announced today the expansion of their renewable energy programs with the support of new team member Todd Stewart, PE, PMP. SCS has one of the longest and successful biogas and renewable energy practices in the United States. Stewart will support the expanding renewable energy programs for the waste industry, working out of the firm’s Pleasanton, California office.
Stewart, a Senior Project Manager, brings more than 30 years of experience managing complex solar and biogas renewable energy, anaerobic digestion, gas pipeline, and compressor station projects executed efficiently and cost-effectively for his clients and their stakeholders. His technical background in waste to energy, advanced composting systems, solar and conventional power generation, gas transmission and storage, and plant operations brings valuable skills to SCS’s clients planning to invest in the use of renewable energy to control the cost of operations and meet environmental compliance and responsibilities.
Stewart’s background spans design engineering, construction management, operations and maintenance engineering, and identifying and resolving environmental issues, and he is experienced with regulatory processes specifically CEQA and NEPA. He has demonstrated expertise in conceptual project development, FEED process, and the technical and fiscal management of large infrastructure.
“Todd has developed and coordinated some of the largest combined solar and alternative power generation projects in the world,” stated Steve Hamilton, senior vice president of SCS Energy. “We’re fortunate to be putting his acumen to work for our clients.”
Stewart is a licensed Professional Engineer in California and a Certified Project Management Professional. He is the past President of the California Society of Professional Engineers and a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers and the Project Management Institute. He earned his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.