There are other kinds of energy technology being pioneered at landfills across the country, including one called the spectral power cap. It generates renewable electricity while covering up giant mounds of trash. We went to Conley, Georgia, to see how it works.
[TEXT ON SCREEN] Conley, GA.
[TONY WALKER, REPUBLIC SERVICES] What you're looking at is a first of its kind. This is one of the largest solar energy covers. I'm Tony Walker. I'm with Republic Services. I'm the engineering manager.
Republic Services is one of the largest solid waste companies in the U.S. We came up with this idea we call a "dual purpose system." We're not only closing the landfill, but we're also generating solar energy.
[ART MOHR, CARLISLE ENERGY] My name is Art Mohr, and I'm the director of landfill solutions for Carlisle energy. We are a manufacturer of the geomembrane that's used in this landfill. Our primary business is commercial rooftop business. When you fly in or you have the ability to look at a roof that is white, that is generally a TPO -- thermoplastic polyolefin -- material, which is very similar to the material that you see here.
[WALKER] The landfill industry, it has a stigma that it's an awful place, it's a dump. You know, that's where all the waste goes. In reality, the landfill is highly engineered.
This is the protective layer. This keeps the landfill gas contained. This keeps the rainwater out of the hill, and also, they can actually walk the facility and see where they might see a stress crack or something that's a flaw -- we can easily fix it.
Underneath this is about 9 million cubic yards of municipal solid waste. As the municipal solid waste breaks down over time, settlement occurs, so we need a panel that kind of flexes with the Earth.
[MOHR] We are shipping in photovoltaic rolls. We have factory-bonded the photovoltaics directly to the geomembrane. And we unroll them here on site. We weld them together and create a monolithic cover on this landfill. Every single one of these components are manufactured in the United States.
[WALKER] There's about 7,000 of these Uni-Solar panels on this hill. Each panel right here is actually 144 watts of solar. These are Teflon-coated, very durable. You can walk on these panels. You can actually do the inspection of the wire system itself. You're looking at about a million linear feet of wire. That is a lot of wire.
[MOHR] Each of these solar arrays are roughly 250KW. That matches with each inverter. So you have four inverters rated for 260KW. The system overall is operating at 1 megawatt in total. That will be equivalent to producing energy to about 224 homes, according to the EPA calculator.
[WALKER] We have an agreement with Georgia Power. We sell the power back to the utility at a wholesale market. That's a $5 million project. We were awarded a grant from GEFA, and they gave us $2 million to expand the system. We wanted to show the people who fly into this town every day how big solar can be in Georgia.
We think that these type of systems can be built across the country. A lot of those landfills are actually built in an urban setting, and so they're close to transmission lines. The technology is going to keep advancing. One day we'll see this whole hill hopefully covered in actually a PV membrane, and so you won't see the stripes behind me but the membrane itself is a PV. That's the vision I see down the road.
[ASSURAS] That massive membrane you just saw covers a total of 45 acres. But solar panels are only installed on 10 acres. There are only two others like it, at landfills in Texas and New York, but they're a lot smaller and generate much less electricity.
Alternative truck fuel isn’t the only kind of energy technology being pioneered at landfills. In fact, an energy company and a landfill operator in Georgia have found a way to generate solar power.
energyNOW! went to see the project, a massive membrane with solar panels that covers giant mounds of trash.
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