Solar developer proposes new uses for old landfills

Just off Dover Hill Road sits the site of a future solar array, if all goes according to plan. “It’s a landfill in the same parcel as the transfer station and the snowplow garages,” said Ralph Meima, director of project development at Green Lantern Group, a Waterbury-based developer of clean distributed energy projects.
The landfill was closed and capped in 1992, according to minutes of the Dover Select Board meeting on Dec. 12. Meima updated the board before his group and the town entered into lease negotiations.
“No undue adverse visual impacts,” the minutes read. “No vulnerable aesthetic, historic or archaeological assets … No topsoil will be removed or disturbed by solar array.”
It’s a formula Green Lantern hopes to apply to community solar arrays throughout southern Vermont. The company is negotiating with the town of Wilmington to lease property adjacent to a capped landfill. Building could begin in late autumn, and Dover would follow later in the year.
Green Lantern also has signed a lease with the town of Newfane, for a capped landfill, and Meima expects construction to start this summer.
Of the three projects, only Wilmington will require some tree clearing. Wintertime construction would not be impossible.
“One good thing about landfills is we don’t have to dig,” Meima said. “We’re not going to have to penetrate frozen grounds. We’re basically laying rows of panels with bollards.”
Meima is looking at other closed landfills in the state. “I’ve talked to a lot of towns and also gotten input from folks at the Agency of Natural Resources, in the solid waste division of the Department of Environmental Conservation, just to hear if they knew of any that would be appropriate.”
Meima said his focus has been on Windham, Windsor and Bennington counties. He said he has “checked off all the towns in those counties.”
“I looked at the potential for solar, not just landfills but other kinds of brownfield sites, gravel pits, town garages,” he said–locations that have been identified by the state as ideal for solar development.
Some towns do not have landfills and some did not want his company to use them, he said. Others are in the “exploratory phase.”
Potential sites include property behind the Windham Town Office and a former landfill on the border of Rockingham and Springfield.
The plan is to build “community solar” arrays of about 150 kilowatts; net-metering credits would be offered to residents of the host town first. Credits are applied against power bills and come at a discounted rate.
Larger arrays tend to be about 500 kilowatts. Green Lantern is building a 252-kilowatt array in Guilford, where net-metering credits have been slow in selling.
“We marketed pretty hard for a five-month stretch and most people who inquired were still not ready to make the commitment or hadn’t yet figured out how they were going to finance it,” Meima said. “At this point, 10 percent of the array is dedicated to community solar. There would be between a dozen or so households that have into that and own parts of it.”
The village of Bellow Falls will be taking net-metering credits from the Guilford array, Meima said. His group is in talks with other potential customers.
Meima is not sure how the other projects will fare.
“Once the clock starts ticking,” he said, referring to the state permitting process, “you need to find the off-takers and finance it and build it.”