South Burlington Landfill Goes Solar (Vermont Business Magazine)

Vermont Business Magazine The City of South Burlington officially announced today the siting of a solar array on city property on the site of its closed and capped landfill. The site is across the street from the end of the Burlington International Airport runway and backs up to the existing transfer station. It will be the largest such solar array on a landfill in the state. The South Burlington Landfill Solar Project recently received a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board. The 2.15 MWdc (1.55 MWac) project has been developed by Burlington-based Encore Renewable Energy and will be funded and owned by Connecticut-based Altus Power America, Inc.

The closed landfill has lain fallow for nearly 25 years, as it still contains environmental risks for most forms of use or development, with otherwise limited opportunity for revenue generation or public use. Because the earthen cap cannot be dug into, the structure for the solar voltaic panels will sit on cement pads.

“We are excited to be a leader in repurposing a closed landfill for the generation of renewable energy. This otherwise unusable property will now provide savings, energy, and opportunity for our community,” said Helen Riehle, City Council Chair.

Four years ago, when the City began looking at the potential for this project, it was financially unfeasible. Then, in 2014 with the passage of Act 99, the Vermont Legislature began encouraging exactly this type of solar array siting—expanding the net metering program to allow for solar arrays of up to 5 megawatts on closed landfills. This legislation put the City’s landfill site on a level playing field with the typical greenfield site, and provides South Burlington with a unique and invaluable opportunity to utilize an undevelopable piece of property, while securing considerable value for the City’s taxpayers.

The project will occupy approximately 8 acres of the landfill, which was closed and capped in 1992. The site is located in an industrial area adjacent to South Burlington Public Works complex, the City’s sewer treatment plant, the Chittenden Solid Waste District Environmental Depot, the Burlington International Airport, the Chittenden Bus Depot, and Interstate 89.

The project will:

• generate roughly 2,665,000 kWh annually;
• supply electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 400 average Vermont homes; and
• provide South Burlington taxpayers with approximately $5 million in municipal and school district savings over the 25-year life of the project.

“This project represents the type of public-private partnership that is so important to South Burlington’s continued development,” said Riehle. “By working with a local solar development company, Encore Renewable Energy, we are contributing to the local economy; and the project itself will create income for the City on an otherwise unusable property while generating electricity in a location that is proximal to significant electrical demand.”

The solar array will employ net-metering, where the energy produced will be sold to Green Mountain Power; the City’s electrical power provider. The City will then receive credits on the electric bills for specified meters—municipal and school district facilities. “The 25-year contract will provide the opportunity for long-term savings and predictable electric pricing—the projected savings could be up to to $5 million,” said South Burlington City Manager Kevin Dorn.

Encore Renewable Energy, a local clean energy company focused on community-scale solar systems served as the City’s agent in developing the project and facilitating the net-metering credit purchase agreement with Altus Power America, a renewable energy project financing company which invests in large scale solar renewable energy generation projects and has experience siting arrays on brownfields and landfills.

South Burlington landfill solar site press conference

“We are thrilled to have been able to assist the City of South Burlington in navigating this exciting project from its concept phase through to its current fully entitled and construction-ready status. We are excited to see the project move toward commissioning and operation so as to begin delivering real value to the City of South Burlington,” said Chad Farrell, president of Encore Renewable Energy. Altus Power America, Inc., a Connecticut-based solar investment company, has teamed up with Encore Renewable Energy and the City of South Burlington to fund and become the long term owner of the project, which will be Altus Power America, Inc.’s fourth landfill solar project on the east coast. Currently Altus owns and operates approximately 80 MWs of solar PV projects across the US.

“Altus is proud to have teamed up with Encore and City of South Burlington to bring this solar project to fruition. The project will be one of the first of many large scale projects we own in VT and we are excited to make use of this municipal landfill to bring real value to the City and its constituents.” said Lars Norell, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Altus Power America, Inc.

While other communities have promoted solar on a brownfields and landfills, South Burlington has emerged as a leader for other municipalities looking to pursue similar projects. Smaller projects are sited in Rutland and Hartford, while another project is currently under development in Brattleboro.

The project is expected to break ground in Q1 or Q2 2017. It is expected to be hooked into the grid by the end of Q2 2017.

Summary of Benefits

South Burlington Landfill Solar Project

The South Burlington Landfill Solar Project provides benefits that go well beyond the financial. The project’s co-benefits include:

Saving taxpayer dollars, and providing financial benefits in a period of tightening financial constraints for both the city and the school district: the 25-yr contract provides the opportunity for long-term savings and predictable electric pricing for planning purposes

City savings: estimated in Year 1 of $80k increasing towards $180K in Year 25; (appx $2.9Mtotal)

School savings: estimated $50K in Year 1 increasing to $120K in Year 25. (appx $1.9M total)

Property taxes: estimated at around $8 to $10K/year for 25 years (with no resulting expensesfor the City)

Total Value to SB Taxpayers: $1.8M~$5.0M[1]

Fixed price for electricity facilitates long term financial planning through greater predictability
Repurposing a brownfield for a priority public objective: A closed landfill is a “brownfield” that represents environmental and health risks for most forms of development, with few opportunities for revenue generation. Yet, SB has identified a way to both save significant taxpayer dollars and allow for clean energy to be generated from otherwise unusable land.

Both regulators and insurers have become comfortable with this important new repurposing ofbrownfields
The VT State Legislature is encouraging exactly this type of solar development by designatingformer landfills and brownfields as priority areas for Net Metering by providing incentives toencourage developers to focus on these types of land uses.
Promoting renewable energy: The project will generate approximately 2.8M kWh per year, allowing the city and school district to shift a large portion of their current consumption to solar.

Reduces dependency on fossil fuels, and contributes to reducing the carbon footprint of theNew England grid
This would be enough to power about 2,000 homes during full sun, or 365 homes year round.
Serves as a model for responsible solar siting to other Vermont Municipalities

SB is leading the way as one of the first municipalities in Vermont to promote solar on a brownfield/closed landfill (others include Rutland, Hartford, Brattleboro, and Milton)

Several other municipalities are already pursuing similar projects while others are ready tofollow suit, and asking SB for advice
We are joining leaders throughout the country seeking to find viable revenue generation for the6000 landfills across the US, and following in the footsteps of those who proved the solar landfillconcept in Massachusetts and New Jersey several years ago.
Demonstrates the importance of public-private partnerships

This project represents the type of public-private partnership that is so important to SB’s continued development.

By pursuing this partnership, SB is able to take advantage of financial benefits associated withthe 30% federal tax credit[2], which will help SB lower its electricity costs
By working with a local solar development company to develop the project (EncoreRedevelopment – whose mission it is to specialize in marginal properties), SB helps contribute tolocal economic development, and prioritize siting renewable energy in the most responsibleway.
It will create both energy and income for the city on property that has no real developmentopportunity, and puts SB on the map as a leader in the state.
Providing educational benefits to the School District

Encore Redevelopment will place informational kiosks in the schools (and municipal offices) tomonitor solar production, and has offered to facilitate field trips to the site.
As part of the SB Energy Prize Solar Consortium, Encore will also contribute to a small solardemonstration project for the schools.
[1]25 year fixed contract at $0.139/kWh for net metering credit purchase, compare to current value ofnet metering credits of $0.19/kWh (~27% discount on actual value of NMCs). The value of NMCs willincrease over time with increasing electric rates. Estimated savings assumes an average annualincrease (AAI) in electric rates of 2.5%. Note that historical average annual increases in electric ratesover the past 40 years average 3%.

[2]The federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is only available to tax paying entities, therefore, the Citymust partner with a private partner to optimize financial savings.

Source: City of South Burlington. 10.18.2016. Aerial photo of South Burlington landfill site. The city’s sewage treatment facility is at the top. BTV airport is off to the right. Courtesy photo.