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Why Aren't More Solar Farms Built on Landfills?



In the mission to tackle climate change and enhance sustainability, solar power stands out as a beacon of renewable energy. Its potential seems limitless, yet an underutilized goldmine lies beneath the public's eyes – landfills. Transforming these eyesores of waste into vibrant solar farms offers a dual benefit: harnessing green energy and repurposing otherwise unused land. So why aren't we seeing more solar farms bloom where once garbage piled high?




The Untapped Potential of the Solar Landfill

Repurposing these brownfield sites through renewable energy development has many benefits, so many landfills have been given new life through solar farm development:


Environmental Benefits

Landfills, especially those already retired, offer vast, flat acreage under typically clear skies – a geographical boon for solar energy capture. By covering landfill tops with photoelectric panels,  buried waste is insulated, and the intrusion of wildlife is reduced, subsequently lowering the risk of contamination and expanding ecological health in and around these sites.


Tax Credit Incentives

While the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) provides incentives for all solar installations, it extends additional tax credits specifically for projects on brownfields (such as landfills), and for renewable energy initiatives benefiting low-income communities.


Revenue Generation

By leasing landfill property for solar panels, governments can earn revenue from lease payments paid out annually by the solar developer.



Landfill Solar Farm Objections

Although there are many benefits of landfill solar projects, there are also a few objections that government property owners are encountering as they attempt to initiate these projects. 


Aesthetic and Public Health Considerations

The association of landfills with pollution and environmental degradation lingers in the public consciousness. Critics may question the visual impact of a solarized landfill or express skepticism about health implications. These concerns demand transparent communication and the education of local populations to ensure community buy-in.

However, most landfills are located in areas that are not directly visible from city centers. For example, the Annapolis Landfill Solar Park is not visible from the nearest highway, nor neighboring communities. There have been no noise or other complaints due to the solar park’s decisively remote location. 


The Economics of Landfill Solar on a Global Scale

Looking at the broader economic picture, questions inevitably arise about the viability of landfill solarization in different national and regional settings. We'll analyze the economic levers such as the cost of land and labor, subsidy programs, and market factors, which dictate the adoption of solar initiatives on landfills.


Regulatory and Policy Hurdles

Installing solar panels on landfill sites requires a thorough approach that ensures that disturbance to the landfill cap and underlying waste. Complex zoning laws, environmental regulations, and local policies can present formidable barriers, each landfill operating under a bespoke blend of red tape. To facilitate this transformation, there's an urgent need for streamlined, landfill-specific solar policies.


Financial Incentives and Cautions

The finances of landfill solarization are a mixed bag. Initial investment costs are relatively high, given the groundwork needed to evaluate and prepare a landfill for solar infrastructure. However, long-term savings in land rejuvenation, energy harvesting, and potentially novel revenue streams from lease agreements with solar companies can tip the scales favorably.



The Future of Solar Landfills: Integration and Innovation

As we look to the future, the integration and innovation in landfill solar farms present a promising horizon. Advancements in technology will likely make solar panels more efficient and affordable, further incentivizing their deployment on underused lands. Additionally, creative solutions like transforming these sites into community energy hubs can foster local engagement and economic development. Legislative reforms that streamline the installation process for landfill solar projects can greatly accelerate their adoption and benefits. As renewable energy becomes increasingly urgent in our global fight against climate change, these landfill transformations may well represent a key piece in our sustainable energy puzzle.


Interested in giving new life to your landfill? Government property owners can list their land for lease for free on LandGate's marketplace for exposure to a one-of-a-kind network of high-intent renewable energy developers actively searching for solar sites:



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