THIS RENDERING BY Cornerstone Environmental Group shows what the county landfill in Monticello could look like covered with next-generation "unrollable" solar panels.
Solar panels contemplated at county landfill
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO In a special meeting Thursday, legislators unanimously agreed to hire Mid-Atlantic Solid Waste Consultants of New Market, Maryland, to develop a user fee system for solid waste.
With the county landfill nearing capacity and an intent to recycle up to 70 percent of the waste stream and export all the rest, county officials are preparing for a new future.
The consulting firm will begin its study this week, said County Manager David Fanslau, with a report anticipated by the end of August. The cost cannot exceed $74,100.
The resulting document will guide county leaders in crafting a user fee that will replace tipping fees for residences and businesses and instead assess a pro-rated fee on each waste-generating property in Sullivan County.
Mid-Atlantic has done such studies up and down the Eastern Seaboard and is currently engaged in creating a waste update plan in neighboring Wayne and Pike counties in Pennsylvania.
A public hearing on the report’s recommendations will be set for September or October.
The landfill site itself will possibly undergo significant changes, with an expanded recycling facility and a new composting complex envisioned by officials.
On Thursday, Richard Peluso of Cornerstone Environmental Group said the soon-to-be-closed landfill need not sit idle.
For a cost potentially under $10 million, the landfill could be capped not with soil but with solar panels.
“They are flexible enough to use right on the liner,” Peluso pointed out.
The panels would cover 10 south-facing acres on the landfill, generating up to 2,000,000 kilowatt hours per year that could be used to supply electricity to county facilities and/or sell it to utilities (reaping an annual profit, said Peluso, of perhaps more than half a million dollars).
That could offset the extra cost of utilizing solar panels instead of the traditional soil cap, but Peluso did acknowledge that this technology is new and has yet to be tried anywhere in New York State.
Plus, a variance would be required from the Department of Environmental Conservation, though Peluso said officials there seemed eager to assist.
Also of note is the fact that the panels would not interfere with the county’s ability to collect methane gas, a byproduct of organic decomposition that the county is considering using for electricity generation or as an auto fuel.
The state Department of Transportation’s Joe Darling briefed legislators on his agency’s interest in creating a “liquification project” which would provide gas to fuel public and private vehicles at a station to be constructed next to the landfill on East Broadway in Monticello.
“It’s also an opportunity for the county to ‘green’ its fleet,” Legislator Alan Sorensen observed, noting that the $5,000 difference in price between the county’s fleet of Ford Tauruses and a natural gas-fueled Honda Civic would be more than offset by increased miles-per-gallon and reduced maintenance.
Legislators liked the array of options for a gas that right now goes mostly wasted.
“We actually have more choices maybe than just watching it flare,” Legislator Ron Hiatt remarked.
The county’s Office of Sustainable Energy coordinator, Heather Brown, also liked the weaving of solar into the mix, which could bring “solid, long-term employment to our citizens.”
And since solar technology was born in New York State and is becoming a viable alternative energy source, “we figured, why not us?” she said.