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Benefits & Challenges of Landfill Solar Farms

aerial photograph of a solar farm on a former landfill surrounded by green trees

As the demand for renewable energy sources continues to increase, innovative solutions are being explored to meet this growing need. One of these solutions is the development of solar energy on brownfield sites, specifically landfills.

Brownfields refer to abandoned or previously developed land that may have been contaminated by industrial or commercial activities. These sites often pose environmental and health risks, making them difficult to redevelop for traditional land uses. However, they provide a unique opportunity for the development of solar energy. It not only helps to repurpose previously developed land, but also promotes renewable energy use and provides economic benefits to surrounding communities.

Benefits of Landfill Solar Farms

Landfills, in particular, are ideal candidates for solar energy projects due to their large size and proximity to existing transmission infrastructure. These sites also have minimal impact on surrounding areas as they are already considered unusable land.

In addition to repurposing previously developed land, the use of landfills for solar energy helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As landfills decompose, they emit methane gas which contributes to climate change. By installing solar panels on these sites, the amount of methane released into the atmosphere can be significantly reduced.

Furthermore, utilizing landfills for solar farm development can also bring economic benefits to local communities. The construction and maintenance of solar farms provide job opportunities and local tax revenues. This can help to revitalize struggling communities that may have been impacted by the closure of industries that once operated on these brownfield sites. Similarly, cities, counties or private owners of landfills can earn revenue from solar projects, specifically in the form of land leases.

Challenges of Landfill Solar Farms

However, developing solar energy projects on landfills does come with its own set of challenges. A major concern is environmental liability. The potential for soil contamination and how it may affect the performance and lifespan of the solar panels is one issue. Similarly, closed landfills must manage groundwater contamination and the emissions of methane and carbon dioxide from rotting trash. Extensive testing and remediation may be necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the solar farm.

The Growth of Landfill Solar Farms

Landfills present a unique opportunity for the development of solar energy projects. Landfills offer significant development potential for properties that otherwise have minimal future uses, and those opportunities can create future revenue streams and produce carbon-free energy.As the demand for clean energy sources continues to grow, the use of other brownfield sites for solar farms will likely increase as well. With careful planning and remediation efforts, these projects can help to create a more sustainable future. 

State regulatory program officials generally support the idea that landfills can be redeveloped to produce utility-scale solar electricity. The US EPA certainly supports that redevelopment potential.In collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the US EPA has recently unveiled a comprehensive guidance document titled "Best Practices for Siting Solar Photovoltaics on Municipal Solid Waste Landfills". This resource aims to provide municipalities, developers, communities, and other stakeholders with essential insights for future solar redevelopment projects. By recognizing the immense growth potential of landfills and solar arrays in generating carbon-free energy, the US EPA is paving the way for smoother approval and permitting processes for upcoming developments.

Public and private landfill owners can list their property for lease for solar energy for free on LandGate's unique marketplace for exposure to a network of prominent energy developers actively searching for new sites. LandGate also provides in-depth data and analytics to help public and private property owners with site analysis and prioritization.


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