Newfane landfill eyed by solar developer

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NEWFANE >> A solar company is discussing the possibility of installing solar panels on a closed landfill.

"Right now, it's in early exploration," said Ralph Meima, director of project development for Green Lantern Capital.

Meima has spoken with the Newfane Select Board twice about the project. He said he is hoping to have an agreement for an option to lease signed soon. The board supported the agreement. On Friday, Meima was still waiting on a draft.

A 20 to 30 year lease would still need to be negotiated for the Browns Road site, which is owned by the town. The facility was closed in 1993.

"It's just sitting there. It's an open field," Meima said. "You really can't do anything else on it, not for agriculture or building anything. What's the use for it?"

The property's location and orientation inspired interest from Meima's group. He said the site could be "a really good place" to install a small solar array.

A 150 kilowatt system is just an idea for now, Meima said. Putting an array that size in the middle of the landfill might be doable without adverse environmental effects.

"It's not a definite plan," said Meima. "There are wetlands and a stream along the eastern side. We have to stay well away from wetlands. We can't cut trees along streets or in wetlands. Those are things we'll be looking at to make sure it's a viable solar site. But I think there's a good chance it might be."

Green Lantern would need to go through the Vermont Public Service Board in order to build the array. A certificate of public good is needed for solar projects. If the permit can be obtained by next spring, the array could be built next summer.

Rare, threatened or endangered species are not expected to present any problems in the permitting process because of seeding that's taken place since the landfill was closed. Meima said many things can still be achieved for the project during the winter, such as surveying and studies by various engineers.

If viable, Meima said it might make sense for a community solar array to be installed. That would mean shares or solar panels would be sold to small businesses and homeowners, and those based in Newfane would be approached first.

Meima told Select Board members and attendees during a meeting on Sept. 19 that there are a number of solar projects on landfills in Vermont.

One of the largest is being planned at the closed and capped landfill in Brattleboro owned by Windham Solid Waste Management District. Towns are currently considering whether to sign up for net metering credits associated with that project.

"We're following suit," Meima said at the meeting. "We're submitting an option to lease so we can at least commit the resources to see if it's really viable. We suspect it will be, but we don't know for sure."

Construction would not cost the town any money, he said, but the town would collect rent "in the thousands each year." Installation would cost developers about $600,000 to $700,000.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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