After bringing the last garbage bag to the side of the curb, consumers often forget where their waste actually ends up. The majority of waste accumulates into landfills and ultimately becomes viewed as wasted space. These landfills are placed on the skirts of metro areas or even further remote areas so they are out of sight, and unfortunately become out of consumers’ minds. On December 31, 2008, Hartford, CT, accepted the last delivery of waste to its 96-acre landfill located in the far northeast reaches of the city. Nearly five years vacated, the City of Hartford now is now collaborating with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) to not only create a renewable energy source, but also give back to the environment. Hartford’s 73-year-old landfill was often thought of as an atypical eyesore until the city decided to propose a resourceful afterlife for its largest area. Due to a gas collection site that utilizes vertical pipes coming out of the ground, a soccer or football field is not an ideal repurposing. At the very least, CRRA and Hartford hopes to create a recreation park and greenhouse, in addition utilizing 6 acres to install solar panels and place artificial turf beneath.
Hartford landfill
An aerial view of the Hartford landfill. Image courtesy of the CRRA.
Paul Nonnenmacher, Director of Public Affairs for CRRA, explains, “Everybody discussed the idea of some kind of renewable-energy generation. While researching the idea, we discovered the cost of installing would be a fair trade for the benefits. After making the numbers work financially, we knew this was the best decision.” CRRA plans to begin the project in July 2013. Once the space is installed with solar collectors, the panels will collect energy from the sun that is then sold to the regional power grid in Connecticut. By October 1, CRRA plans to generate enough megawatts to power more than 1,000 Hartford homes. According to CRRA, Hartford’s weather patterns was one of the biggest concerns, which in retrospect is fairly minimal. The project is now full force ahead. Nonnenmacher states, “People are actually going to be able to get an up-close look at the solar generation, which is still quite the novelty here in Connecticut. We hope this can serve as an educational opportunity yet generate clean power.” There are thousands of closed landfills around the country serving no current purpose. Hartford’s eyesore is a great model for other communities that are looking for opportunities to utilize abandoned landfilled areas. In the near future, solar landfill power may be commonplace in other cities. However, each situation depends on the cost and benefit factors. The EPA currently lists 15 landfills around the country that have been constructed into solar power fields. This type of energy harvesting is new and innovative, and encourages saving precious natural resources for energy. Residents are given the chance to see the negative impacts of landfills and reflect on their actions attributed to this large amount of waste. Solar power fields are a step in the right direction, and, if successful, an expected outcome for the future.