An Energy Solution for Closed Landfill
by Simon Martin (Peak Services Energy Leader) & Pat Pathmanathan (Peak Services Waste Leader)
Landfills are a necessary part of most waste management strategies for councils throughout Queensland and across Australia.
Once a landfill reaches the end of its useful life, capping, closure and ongoing monitoring commences and continues for many years into the future. Contamination limits the value of the closed landfill site for other uses for many years, due to uneven and potentially extreme settlement, as landfilled materials continue to breakdown at varying rates of decay.
One potential use for such sites is as a solar farm, as they require large areas to generate viable outputs, maximise solar collection and accessibility for maintenance requirements.
There are many aspects to incorporate when considering whether a solar farm would be the best use of these types of sites, as there are positives and negatives to explore and understand.
Solar farms generally limit utilisation of the site for other uses and can tie up land that may have a higher and better use value output; this can put pressure on the operation to relocate if a competing use is identified to be developed on or near the land in question.
Conversely, utilising closed landfills for solar farms may be the highest and best use for that land, and generally guarantees the solar farm operation on the site for many years into the future.
There are limited uses that would compete for this land or land near the closed landfill.
These landfill sites typically offer the following benefits for solar farm implementation:
- They may have environmental conditions that are not well suited for commercial or residential redevelopment
- They can be developed in place of limited open space, preserving the land as a carbon sink and/or for other ecosystem services
- They are typically located near existing roads and energy transmission or distribution infrastructure
- They may be adequately zoned for renewable energy
- They can provide job creation opportunities in urban and rural communities
- They can advance cleaner and more cost-effective energy technologies
- They may reduce the environmental impacts of energy systems (e.g., reduce greenhouse gas emissions).
It should be noted that landfill sites would require a level of decontamination and rehabilitation works to allow the development of a solar farm. However, there is a potential for the revenue generated from the solar farm to offset the post-closure cost. Council’s land asset value may also be positively impacted by utilising closed landfills sites for solar farms. An example of one such installation is the 2MW system in Fort Carson, Colorado, USA.
The feasibility assessment for implementation of a solar farm at a landfill site is complex and involves an assessment of many factors, including:
- the age of the landfill
- the area available
- landfill maintenance requirements
- site control
- solar resource
- distance to electrical distribution network
- availability of capacity on the network for feed-in.
It is certainly not an opportunity to be undertaken lightly and will require due diligence applied to the project to ensure viability and value for council and community. It should be noted that many of the above benefits of developing solar farms on closed landfill sites are likely to be attractive to infrastructure funding programs.
Peak Services can assist in all stages of the project, from feasibility assessment and grant writing to the design and specification of a solar farm, necessary approvals, procurement and project management of the installation itself, as well as the landfill closure plan and change of zoning requirements.
If you would like to know more about this issue or anything energy related, contact Simon Martin on 0448 102 122 or via email email@example.com.