The closed landfill is a model of responsible solar siting
The South Burlington Landfill Solar Project was energized on October 11, 2017 and is now producing electricity. South Burlington City officials and representatives of the City School District, along with others associated with the development of the project, celebrated the commissioning of the project at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the site today.
The solar project is sited on the closed and capped landfill owned by the City, located off Airport Parkway in South Burlington. The closed landfill has lain fallow for nearly 25 years as it still contains environmental and health risks for most forms of use or development, with limited opportunity for revenue generation or public use.
“We are excited to be a leader in repurposing a closed landfill for the generation of renewable energy. This otherwise unusable property will now provide savings, energy, and opportunity for our community,” said Helen Riehle, City Council Chair.
Four years ago, when the City began looking at the potential for this project, it was financially unfeasible. Then, in 2014 with the passage of Act 99, the Vermont legislature began encouraging exactly this type of solar array siting — expanding the net metering program to allow for solar arrays of up to 5 megawatts on closed landfills. This legislation put the City’s landfill site on a level playing field with a typical greenfield site, and provides South Burlington with a unique and invaluable opportunity to utilize an undevelopable piece of property while securing considerable value for the City’s taxpayers.
The project occupies approximately 8 acres of the landfill, which was closed and capped in 1992. The site is located in an industrial area adjacent to South Burlington Public Works complex, the City’s sewer treatment plant, the Chittenden Solid Waste District Environmental Depot, the Burlington International Airport, the Chittenden Bus Depot, and Interstate 89.
“This project represents the type of public-private partnership that is so important to South Burlington’s continued development,” said Riehle. “By working with a local solar development company, Encore Renewable Energy, we are contributing to the local economy; and the project itself will create income for the City on an otherwise unusable property, while generating electricity in a location that is proximal to significant electrical demand.”
The solar array will employ Vermont’s industry-leading virtual net-metering program. The City and School District will receive net-metering credits on electric bills for specified meters, at a significant discount compared to their value. “The 25-year contract will provide the opportunity for long-term savings and predictable electric pricing—the projected savings could be $2 million to $5 million,” said South Burlington City Manager Kevin Dorn.
The 2.1 megawatt project was developed by Encore Renewable Energy, a Burlington, VT clean energy development company and certified B CorporationTM. Altus Power America, Inc., a Connecticut-based private solar investment company, funded the project, constructed it, and will serve as the long-term owner and operator.
“We are thrilled to have been able to assist the City of South Burlington in navigating this exciting project from its concept phase through to commissioning and active production of electricity. We are excited to see the project begin delivering real value to the City of South Burlington,” said Chad Farrell, Chief Executive Officer of Encore Renewable Energy.
Altus Power America teamed up with Encore Renewable Energy and the City of South Burlington to fund the project and become its long-term owner. The project represents Altus Power America, Inc.'s fourth landfill/brownfield solar project on the East Coast. Currently Altus owns and operates approximately 90 MWs of solar PV projects across the US.
"Altus is proud to have teamed up with Encore and City of South Burlington to bring this solar project to fruition. The project will be one of the first of many large-scale projects we own in VT and we are excited to make use of this municipal landfill to bring real value to the City and its constituents." said Lars Norell, President and Co-Founder of Altus Power America, Inc.
While other communities have promoted solar on brownfields and landfills, South Burlington has emerged as a leader for other municipalities looking to pursue similar projects. Other projects are sited in Rutland and Hartford, while another project is currently under development in Brattleboro.