Ground-mount solar PV trends: Focus on solar landfills in Borrego Solar chat

Jon Sarno, Borrego Solar, updates ElectroIQ.com on the company’s various solar on landfill, water district, military, and federal agency projects. Sarno details the special installation and electrical hook up requirements of solar on landfills.

November 21, 2011 — Jon Sarno, senior applications engineer, Borrego Solar, updates ElectroIQ.com on the company?s various solar on landfill, water district, military, and federal agency projects.

Sarno observed that the ?hottest? states right now in terms of projects for the company are Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. Many of the projects are ground-based with long timelines (e.g., 12 months for construction and contract negotiations). In particular, ground-mounted, larger utility scale projects in the 1-5MW range are popular. ?The finances make larger projects more attractive for our customers,? said Sarno. For the most part, the larger projects are fixed-tilt, penetrating ground mount systems. However, ballasted systems are often used in the Northeast, said Sarno, where rocky terrain and landfill projects require concrete, pre-cast foundations for the ballasts.

 

Ground-mount installations on landfills have a number of technical challenges, observed Sarno. They typically have more environmental concerns with higher permitting fees, and landfill solar projects require special permits. ?We believe a ballasted, non-penetrating design is the best way to design these projects so we don?t have any risk of inflicting damage on sensitive landfill caps,? explained Sarno. ?With that comes the need to build up ballast underneath the racking and allow water drainage to continue as it was before [the project].?

Another consideration with landfill projects is the electrical runs. ?We typically do trenched media voltage underground,? said Sarno. ?But since we?re not trenching in landfills, we?ve been building swales to incorporate some of our conduits and using the construction road we built on top of the landfill to keep the conduits safe and not being beneath the cap of the landfill itself.?

Many of the projects the company is working on are power purchase agreements (PPAs), said Sarno, particularly in Massachusetts, where these kinds of projects are supported and financiers are able to achieve expected payback. California is an interesting case, he said, because the state has been a leader in solar for many years and although there has been a dip in its market lately, Sarno thinks it will come back because of momentum and critical mass in that state.

Looking ahead, Sarno observed that if incentives are removed from the market at a rate that is on pace with the energy adoption, the situation could actually help sustain the market in an environment of less incentives. ?Incentives are kind of like training wheels on the market and hopefully, one day, we can remove the training wheels and the industry can ride on its own.?         

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