What is one of the worst pollution sources you can imagine?  Pig farm? Nuclear power plant? Factory?  How about landfills?  As of 2013, according to the U.S. EPA, there were 1908 MSWLFs (municipal solid waste landfills) in the continental U.S.  Landfills released 114.5 MMTCO₂e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) of methane into the atmosphere in 2019.  This represents 17% of the total methane emissions across all sectors or in other words, the 3rd largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.  https://www.epa.gov/lmop/frequent-questions-about-landfill-gas 

Landfills present environmental problems with the top three issues being: toxins, leachate, and greenhouse gases.  https://environmentvictoria.org.au/resource/problem-landfill/

What can we do?

  1. Recycle 
    • Reduce, reuse, and recycle – we need to reduce the quantity of dangerous substances reaching our landfills. Increasing recycling efforts not only reduces waste but increases jobs.
    • Create products that allow for recycling. Lobbying at the federal, state and even local levels can increase pressure on politicians to require products be made of recycled material and in turn mandate the recyclability of products.
  2. Better prepare landfills to accept non-recycled products to prevent leachate. Through starting with the correct geology and requiring clay and synthetic liners and leachate collection systems, landfills can safeguard groundwater. http://www.ejnet.org/landfills/
  3. Recapture and Use – LMOP (Landfill Methane Outreach Program) is a voluntary program that works cooperatively with industry stakeholders to reduce and/or use methane emissions from landfills.
  4. Reusing Landfills – by properly preparing closed landfills, these once toxic havens of greenhouse emissions can become the clean energy generators of the future.

One of the issues that has been limiting the development of solar energy is finding enough space to accommodate sufficient solar panels and energy storage capabilities, to generate and store appreciable energy. One of the growing sources of land for solar fields has been brown fields generally and landfills specifically. According to the EPA, over the last 5 years, there have been 417 new solar projects on these types of properties generating more than 1.8 gigawatts of electric capacity. Because active landfills are on the decline and closed landfills are on the rise, the reuse of closed landfills solves various problems for state and local municipalities. Repurposing landfills converts large, previously unusable, chunks of land into clean energy generating sources of jobs and revenues. https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com 

This is a good time in our nation’s history to consider the conversion of landfills to solar fields.  Not only do immediate and drastic measures need to be taken to mitigate climate change, but our need to be energy independent has never been more clear.  The landfill to solar field conversion can convert a previous emission generator into a clean energy creator.  

With the passing of IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) there has never been a better time for private and public entities to consider participating in the landfill to solar field conversion.  The IIJA has multiple tranches of funds allocated for brownfield clean up, brownfield conversions, and solar field installations.  The creative and tenacious thinking that has always been referred to as American Ingenuity has entered a new and exciting stage and the conversion from old to new, polluter to clean energy generator, will be an integral part of it.

Should you have any questions on how you can access IIJA funds for your project, please reach out to us for a consultation.