South Hadley goes solar

by Town Reminder

South Hadley goes solar
Town’s landfill first in state to install solar panels

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer,

SOUTH HADLEY – South Hadley’s landfill will be the first in the state to affix solar panels to its sides.
Approved last Monday by the Planning Board, a total of 372 solar panels with be installed on the south-facing side of Cell 2D. Their total length extends 200 feet and the panels, comprised of rigid crystalline, will be stacked nine high.
Cell 2D wraps around the southern perimeter of the landfill. It can contain 230,000 cubic yards of waste. The cell does not surpass 405 in elevation.
Each solar panel generates 230 kilowatts per year. In total, the collection of panels will generate 100,00 kilowatts per year. The panels are a fixed orientation, anchored to four inch-thick steel stabilizers embedded within Mechanically Stabilized Earthen [MSE] Berm. They are expected to last at least 25 years.
“It’s the first we’re aware of anywhere in the country,” said Bryan Wheler of the ARM Group Inc., designers of the landfill. “It’s certainly a unique design. We’re excited about it.”
Planning Board Member Mark Cavanaugh asked of any noise associated with the solar panels. It was explained the panels have an inverter with a fan creating noise a little louder than a residential refrigerator.
Energy produced by the panels will cover 50 percent of the landfill’s current on-site demand. When asked by a Planning Board member why Interstate Waste Services [IWS], mangers of the landfill, were not aiming for 100 percent, Wheler said, “Cost, mainly,” adding the panels are expensive to fabricate and install, as they’re much more intricate than typical rooftop solar panels. After the landfill is capped, however, its energy expenditure would obviously decrease, allowing the town to harness some of that previously used power.
Absorbing much energy at the moment is the treatment of contaminated groundwater running beneath the site. The landfill sits atop old waste placed in the ground ages ago and an ancient system treats the contaminated groundwater, directing it to a sewage plant. IWS oversees the treatment of this water, despite it having existed prior to their ownership. “Once it’s removed, it’s removed,” said Tom Fields, director of landfill operations, of the contamination. He projects over time, the contamination will cease, thanks to the treatment, and the town – which will resume care of the treatment and ownership of the solar panels when the landfill is capped within the next five to eight years – will no longer need to expend power in that area.
Installation of the panels will take between three to four weeks on-site. IWS and ARM hope to do the necessary groundwork before the next frost. Further installation will resume in the spring. “We try to avoid doing this work in the heart of winter,” said Wheler. A March installation is scheduled.
It was expected the solar panel installation would be completed this fall, however due to project delays, IWS and ARM requested from the Department of Environmental Protection an extension. One was granted until April 15.
South Hadley Electric Light [SHELD] will coordinate with IWS and ARM for the installation of a transformer to transfer energy from the panels.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Planning Board Associate Member Jeremy King. “Let’s do it.”
Unanimously, the Planning Board voted to approve a special permit to alter/expand a pre-existing nonconforming use (the landfill) for installation of solar panels.