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Solar panels not wasted at landfill sites

24th Jan 2012

A city in Arizona, USA has signed up for a unique solar energy study to assess the feasibility of placing renewable energy projects on inactive landfill sites.

Tucson has been selected as one of 26 cities across the country selected to work with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to participate in the study.

According to the EPA, Tucson is committed to developing solar resources on city land and buildings, and considers the landfill as having renewable energy potential.

The study hopes to prove that a solar energy project at the sites will be able to supply enough power to the landfill flare, as well as powering several public facilities nearby such as parks and council buildings.

Spokesman for Tucson Electric Power Joe Salkowski told local paper the Arizona Daily Star (January 18) that the sites face several challenges - including sinking ground and gases from decomposing materials.

"If those issues could be addressed in a way that would allow for the construction of a cost-effective solar array, city landfills would be very attractive to us," Salkowski said.

Project manager Jeffrey Drumm said that while the city wants to explore whether private companies could set up on the sites, he anticipates the study will help determine how to place solar panels on the landfill and how much energy can be produced.

"The city is always looking for ways to make this land usable - not just to make sure it isn't an eyesore, but that it's actually usable," he said.

The $1 million year-long study will focus on the 61-acre Vincent Mullins Landfill - which was closed in 2007 - as well as the Harrison, Irvington, Silverbell and Ryland landfills.

Currently in its fourth year of a 30-year post-closure monitoring cycle, the site features 40 feet of landfill and more than 1.6 million cubic metres of waste.

The EPA notes that renewable energy projects on similar sites have been successful in the past, with some 20 developments already under way.

According to the agency, landfills and other contaminated sites often are ideal for redevelopment because infrastructure - such as roads and water - are often already in place and the sites often have the necessary zoning requirements.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent

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