Shakespeare & Company A Body of Water June-July 2024

Smell that solar power?

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HUDSON—A new revenue stream may be in Columbia County’s future—generated by sunshine and the seven county-owned dumps.

More delicately known as landfills, these sites are located in six towns around the county as well as the City of Hudson. The closed landfill area (as opposed to non-landfill area) of these properties totals about 74 acres.

These are places basically unsuitable for most uses. Before the current system of solid waste convenience/recycling/transfer stations was instituted, residents made weekly trips to dump their garbage and anything else they wanted to get rid of in a big stinky pile. These closed sites are now covered by geomembrane caps and vegetation with an occasional candy cane-shaped plastic pipe jutting up to vent the gasses of decomposing waste. The land is just sitting there costing the county money to maintain in terms of grass mowing and gas vent monitoring. None of the sites have leachate collection systems in place. The state Department of Environmental Conservation requires quarterly and/or annual monitoring according to approved closure plans and solid waste management facility regulations.

So wouldn’t it be good if the county could put these sites to some use that would generate income?

Enter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Through the agency’s “RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative, the EPA promotes the reuse of potentially contaminated properties, landfills and mining sites for renewable energy generation. The agency’s initiative identifies the renewable energy potential of the sites and provides useful resources for communities, developers, industry, state and local governments or anyone interested in reusing these sites for renewable energy development.”

A list of RE-Powering America Initiative resources can be found at http://www.epa.gov/oswercpa.

Last year, the EPA reached out to Columbia County officials seeking permission to evaluate the county’s closed landfill sites for potential solar photovoltaic (PV) renewable energy generation, Columbia County Solid Waste Department Director Jolene D. Race told The Columbia Paper this week.

Funding came from the EPA at no cost to the county.

Ms. Race brought the matter up with the Board of Supervisors’ Department of Public Works Committee, which decided it couldn’t hurt to get the properties assessed.

EPA officials came from New York City and in coordination with the DEC visited the sites, said Ms. Race, “It was an opportunity we could not pass up.”

In June, the EPA issued its report titled, “Solar Photovoltaic Screening Study of Properly Closed Municipal Solid Waste Landfills–Siting Solar Photovoltaics for Columbia County, New York.”

The study, which the EPA told the county to consider “a living document,” was distributed to members of the DPW Committee last month and can be updated and commented on in the future, Ms. Race said.

The initial 25-page study covers five of the seven landfills: Ghent, Copake, Hillsdale, Gallatin and Ancram. A separate 25-page study was done of the landfill and highway garage in Claverack. A study on the Hudson site, about 15 acres on Dock Street, has not yet been produced.

With the exception of Ancram, the EPA found that all the sites evaluated are suitable for the installation of solar photovoltaics (PV).

“Overall the landfills assessed in Columbia County appear to have favorable site conditions to support solar PV generation and economic viable reuse,” the EPA concluded.

Findings include:

• Ghent landfill, Talarico Road, of 13 closed landfill acres, has 4.5 acres usable for solar installation

• Claverack landfill, Syndertown Road, 17 acres, 9 usable acres

• Hillsdale landfill, Holm Road, 12.5 acres, 2 usable acres

• Gallatin landfill, Silvernails-Gallatinville Road, 4.7 acres, 2.5 usable acres

• Copake landfill, Center Hill Road, 7.84 acres, 5.75 usable acres (2.5 acres of usable property is non-landfill)

• Ancram landfill, Rothvoss Road, 4.2 acres, 0.5 usable acres.

The EPA found Ancram landfill “offered limited available flat usable areas for solar PV generation and was considered too steep to place a solar array system. The limited flat area available on the landfill amounted to less than 1 acre,” so no solar PV system is recommended.

According to its report, the EPA said, “in general, for closed landfills, a minimum of 2 usable acres is recommended to site PV systems. Usable acreage is typically characterized as “flat to gently sloping” southern exposures that are free from obstructions and get full sun for at least a 6-hour period each day.”

The report goes on to say that “…the viability of implementing a solar PV system on a landfill is highly impacted by the available area for an array, solar resource, shading, operating status, landfill cap status, distance to transmission lines, distance to major roads, favorable economic conditions, and community support.”

The EPA found that “electrical transmission lines were located along the main roads next to each landfill. In general, the distance from the proposed solar PV system to the point of interconnection with electrical transmission should be within a half mile distance in order to yield more viable economic conditions.”

The agency “highly recommended that the Columbia County and town officials consult with the electric distribution company (EDC) serving the area to discuss the electrical interconnection requirements for potential solar PV projects.”

County Department of Public Works Committee Chairman Ron Knott (R-Stuyvesant) said by phone this week, that there have been varying degrees of interest among supervisors in siting solar installations on landfills.

Hudson City officials have voiced resistance to the idea, though there is a market in terms of Hudson residents and three-phase power access there, Mr. Knott said.

The county has contracted with a firm to do a study, which is underway, into the possibility of creating a trail over the landfill connecting the City of Hudson and the Greenport Public Conservation Area, Mr. Knott said. Whether or not a trail can be developed across the cap is yet to be determined.

As far as other municipalities where solar arrays might be installed on a landfill, Mr. Knott said many towns now have solar regulations in place that must be considered along with the viewpoints of residents. He said that in Stuyvesant regulations were adopted because no one wanted to see large solar installations “chewing up good active farmland.” Costs to install a solar array must be considered as well as the potential for income generation. Approaches like leasing the land to a solar company are possible.

Mr. Knott said the EPA studies will be discussed at the next DPW Committee meeting at the County Office Building, 401 State Street, August 23 at 5 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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