Six acres of a 90-acre landfill in Gloucester, New Jersey will soon be occupied by 6,500 solar panels capable powering the equivalent of 1,100 typical U.S. homes for an entire year.
Clean Harbors Environmental Services, theMassachusetts-based hazardous waste cleanup company — one of the largest of its kind in the western hemisphere — will carry out theinstallation. While the company has worked on cleaning up suchcatastrophic disasters as the Gulf Coast oil spill this past summer, ithas yet to oversee a solar energy installation, according to Bill Geary, the company’s president. Since acquiring the land in 2002, CleanHarbors has already spent over $7 million at the site, which wasconverted to landfill after a deadly explosion in the late 1970s. CleanHarbor will spend close to $8 million on the solar energy system.
The 1.5-megawatt (MW) New Jersey solarenergy installation will be the first in the area, but certainly not the first built at an industrial waste site — or a so-called brownfield. In April 2009, for instance, a pair of companies teamed up to build a 5.6-acre solar power cover atop a landfill in Texas. And at Fort Carson in Colorado, a 12-acre, 2-MW photovoltaic (PV) system sits atop the site’s landfill, providing clean energy for the bases’s facilities. Notably, the FortCarson system is the largest solar power site at any U.S. Army base inthe country.
Installing solar panels on brownfields is a sensible practice for a number of reasons. Such land is typically cheap and, if formerly home to industrial activity, is sometimes in closeproximity to electricity transmission lines. Both factors help reduceproject costs, which is good for both developers and electricity buyers. Moreover, making use of marginal land is often preferable to usinghigh-value land that could otherwise be used for farming or otherproductive activities.