News & Press
Easthampton pioneers landfill solar project
Channel 22 TV News (WWLP.com)
Oliver St. landfill project first of its kind
May 1, 2012
EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Easthampton's Oliver Street landfill is getting a lot of attention, but not for its trash. The landfill was capped 18 years ago and today it's not only the home of thousands of solar panels but also a renewable energy project that's the first of its kind in Massachusetts.
9,600 solar panels sit two feet above a geo-membrane that encapsulates the 12-acre landfill. The $8.5 million project didn't cost the city a penny. And the transforming of this dump into a source of renewable energy is putting Easthampton in the forefront of clean energy development.
“I think it's fabulous idea putting it on a landfill, it's already a space that kind of nobody wants to look at anyway; so it's attracting,” said Jennifer Roberge at the Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters on Union Street Tuesday morning.
The 2.2 megawatts produced by these panels is enough to power 600 homes. But the panels will be connected to the city's grid and instead power street lights and municipal buildings. It’s a move estimated to save the city of Easthampton at least $80,000 a year in electric costs.
“This is the first solar project on a landfill in the state. The city agrees to buy all the electricity produced here and they also are able to charge us personal property tax for having our system here,” said Joe Harrison, the project’s manager, of the development that broke ground in September of 2011.
Lowell-based Borrego Solar was one of the three finalists in the competitive bidding process. Harrison told 22News the firm’s innovative engineering is influencing other projects in the state. What’s unique to landfills is the fact that solar projects are built above ground.
The system arrays sit on 5,000lbs ballast blocks which serve as counterweights; in lieu of support posts being driven into the ground and puncturing the membrane that separates toxic fumes and decades of trash.
Generating revenue by making unusable landfills house multi-megawatt solar projects is a concept other communities are adopting as Borrego Solar will soon break ground in Dartmouth, Kingston and Methuen. It's an occurrence Harrison attributes to Governor Deval Patrick ; who he says is invested with aggressive programs that make solar energy work in Massachusetts. Last October, Massachusetts was named first in the nation in energy efficiency by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
For the next ten years, Borrego Solar will re-coop their investment by selling power to the city at a fraction of the cost. But some residents are skeptical and say the city should've picked an area firm.
“I think that money should stay in the community we have a great worker co-op based in Greenfield, Massachusetts. So if it's tax dollars being used for this project it should go to a worker co-op,” said Janelle Cornwell of Easthampton.
Harrison says they are set to “flip the switch” sometime in the next two weeks.
Schwartz Communications, Inc.
595 Market Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105