A former landfill for the city of Charlotte is the site for a proposed new solar farm. The property has been idle for for than half a century. The 155 acre site is one of 675 landfills scattered across North Carolina and 8 within Mecklenburg County.
“The idea from the get-go was, how do we bring somebody in who could do something on top of a landfill?” said Rob Phocas, the city’s energy and sustainability manager. “It’s been a long process. (Solar) fits in really well with our vision for bringing that property back into play, but is something that is not really very impactful to the site.”
Momentum Solar LLC, a private company located in Kannapoilis, wants to lease 22 acres of the old landfill to build a small solar farm. It will spend a year studying the site’s suitability for solar energy. Permitting and other details could add years more to its development, but Momentum Solar believes the site could support a 2- or 3- megawatt system. That output would be enough to supply 360 to 540 homes for a year. The company hopes to become a specialist in making old landfills into solar farms.
The landfill is within an area the city began studying in 2014 as an “innovation corridor” to nurture jobs in cutting-edge industries that would also stimulate investments in housing and commercial development.
“We’ve been looking optimistically for some sustainable uses out there for years,” said David Wolfe, the city’s environmental services manager. “It’s in that (innovation corridor) geography and a big property. We’re excited about the potential for solar and would love to find other positive uses for that property.”
“Whatever was in that area, you’re going to find in that landfill,” said Cheryl Marks, who leads the state program to clean up old landfills. “Some sites are pumping (potentially hazardous) landfill gas, methane and volatile organic compounds. Some have soil cover, some don’t. Some are stacked so high that the slopes are no longer stable.” The program, created in 2009, runs on the $8 million a year it gets from a share of a statewide $2-a-ton waste tax.
Because available land for solar farms is becoming scarce – North Carolina is the second-leading solar state – Momentum Solar and its consultants analyzed the state’s inventory of old landfills. The list shrank to a few dozen candidate sites after those with problems (such as sites in floodplains or those far from utility substations) were eliminated. The former Charlotte landfill was chosen as one of the most desirable sites.
Momentum Solar says it has 4 more landfill solar projects in some stage of development and has identified about 10 other landfills as candidates. “We love the concept because it’s a great use of that land,” said contractor Rich Deming of Power Resource Group. “You’re not displacing farmland or development land, and it’s a huge win for these municipalities, which get a (lease) check.”