Landfills are a constant reminder of all the waste we produce, but a new innovation could throw out the notion of a “dump” by turning them into solar power dynamos.
energyNOW! visited Conley, Georgia to see how one company is generating renewable energy while safely covering nine million cubic yards of municipal solid waste.
Landfills are highly engineered environments, designed to safely contain decomposing waste and methane. Clean energy advocates consider landfills an ideal location for solar power installations, but have encountered problems because as waste breaks down over time, their shape can shift and damage solid structures.
Enter the spectral Spectro PowerCap, from Carlisle Energy a first-of-its-kind 45-acre landfill cover combining geomembrane and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to close the landfill and generate solar energy. The geomembrane is made of Thermoplastic PolyOlefin, similar to commercial white roofs. It contours to the landfill’s shape and can flex over time.
Innovative by itself, but the integrated solar panels are what really makes the power cap interesting. About 7,000 flexible 144-watt PV panels were factory bonded to the geomembrane, shipped to the landfill, unrolled on site, and welded into a solid cover. The PV panels, made by UNI-SOLAR, are Teflon-have a top polymer cover sheet similar to Teflon, are durable enough to walk on, and connected by a million feet of wire to four inverters that sends the solar energy onto the grid.
The power cap combines four 250-kilowatt arrays across 10 acres into an operating capacity of one megawatt, enough to power 224 homes. The system makes money for the landfill operators through an agreement with Georgia Power to sell the energy to the wholesale electricity market.
The Conley geomembrane is the largest of its kind, much larger with more capacity than two similar installations in New York and Texas, and engineers think many more systems could be installed across the country because landfills are near urban settings and transmission lines. Carlisle Energy says they’ve also recently commissioned a second landfill project in Madison County, New York.
You can watch the full video below: