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Solar panels on trash piles becoming new source of green energy

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A landfill has typically been considered useless once the area reaches its trash capacity. By lining the mound of garbage with solar panels, one Pennsylvania company is turning the trash into a treasure of green energy.

Carlisle Energy Services developed the Spectra PowerCap at the Hickory Ridge landfill in Georgia. The 10-acre site, which is full of trash and would otherwise sit dormant, has been covered with 7,000 flexible solar panels.

Officials report the installed panels provide 1 million watts of energy. This energy is funneled to the local grid, providing power to local homes and businesses. One million watts is enough to power approximately 300 average homes, according to KidWind.

The landfill's physical characteristics make it a prime solar base. The height of the garbage pile ensures that there are no obstructions between the panels and the sun. Additionally, there are very few other productive uses for the land once it has been filled with waste.

While it is less expensive to simply close the landfill, the solar landfill projects promise lower maintenance costs, in addition to the new green resource for the neighboring town.

Implementing the solar panels on the landfills begins with the installation of a thermoplastic, polyurethane liner over the pile that prevents the infiltration of water and the escape of methane gas. Pumps are driven to the bottom of the landfill, removing methane gas that can also provide power.

The creation of the PowerCap in Georgia inspired the development of a similar project in New York. This project, whose $380,000 installation cost will be paid for by a state energy grant, will be implemented in Madison County. The energy generated from those solar panels will help power a recycling center in the area.

With about 100,000 closed landfills in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, solar landfills could be a new method for turning piles of garbage into green energy.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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