CEC instrumental in plans to turn closed Ohio landfill into a solar park

July 15, 2022

Think of the proposed Columbus Solar Park as the ultimate upcycling project — on the grandest of scales.
The parcel in Jackson Township, Ohio, was permitted as Model Landfill in 1969. In 1985, the landfill stopped accepting waste and was closed.
Fast forward 13 years, and the site was permitted as a golf course. The Phoenix Golf Links opened in 2000 and operated for the next 14 years.
Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. is now involved as the site begins its next transformation.

A solar power generation system producing approximately 49.5 MW is proposed to be installed over approximately 154 acres of existing landfill cap.
Owned by Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO), the location is being developed by CEC’s client, BQ Energy, LLC., a New York company specializing in developing wind and solar projects on closed landfills, former mine sites, and other brownfield sites. Columbus Solar Park is among more than 20 BQ Energy solar projects currently under development.
Project Manager I in the Waste Management Practice Abigail Pollock is at the helm of this latest iteration. It is slated to be one of the biggest solar developments of its kind in the country.
“Solar development projects on landfills present numerous opportunities to CEC for multi-office, multi-discipline involvement, including solid waste, geotech, water resources, survey, ecological, and cultural resources services,” she says.
Project management and support is being performed by the CEC team, including Solid Waste Rule 513 application, cultural resources, threatened and endangered species, geotech and survey.
In addition to working with the SWACO and BQ Energy, Pollock is also coordinating efforts with design engineering consultant, Crawford & Associates Engineering & Land Surveying; electrical engineering consultant, Barr Engineering on substation design; and legal consultant, Bricker & Eckler.

DCIM100MEDIA

This is the BQ Energy solar park in Derby, CT.

BENEFITS & CHALLENGES
Solar is a natural fit for closed landfills as they provide large, open areas without the challenges of competing existing land uses. Landfills often have existing infrastructure in place including access roads, fencing, surface water controls, and importantly, electric transmission infrastructure. Of course, there are also unique challenges that come with these benefits.
Pollock points to some specific challenges of design and permitting at the site:
• The existing landfill cap system
• Steep slopes, of greater than 15%
• Existing facility infrastructure
• Potential for ground settling
• Leachate collection, management, and transport systems and structures
• Stormwater management
• Post-construction vegetation must be low-growing, low-maintenance species.
CEC performed an assessment level investigation of the proposed Columbus Solar Park in April 2021 and identified one acre that would meet the three wetland delineation criteria.
The Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water initially informed CEC that any impact to these areas would need to be permitted, most likely as isolated wetlands.
CEC presented information to both Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water and Waste Management.
The OEPA agreed with CEC and issued a regulatory clarification stating that isolated wetlands that have established on landfill caps will lack junction with subsurface groundwater and consequently are considered by Ohio EPA as private water (i.e. not a regulated water of the State). Avoiding wetland permits for these areas was a big win for the project.

Crawford & Associated Engineering & Land Surveying, PC provided this graphic showing how the solar panels are installed atop a closed landfill with driven post foundations.

GAS EXTRACTION SYSTEMS
Another significant issue at this site, and other solar facilities constructed on landfill, according to Pollock, is designing around the existing gas extraction system.
The decomposing waste in the landfill continually produces methane gas that must be removed.
That is performed through a piping and gas well system that collects and combusts the gas.
Rick Buffalini, a CEC Vice President and a Solid Waste engineer, said the Model Landfill has a soil cap so the project is using driven post foundations, not ballast blocks.
This presents challenges for a site with a gas extraction system like the Model Landfill.
There is about one gas well per acre, with an extensive piping system beneath the ground. “There is a lot of piping and we must locate that piping before the installation of the solar panel foundations,” Buffalini says. “We may use subsurface utility engineering survey or isolated test pits to locate the underground piping.” Buffalini said, “though constructing a solar project on a closed landfill presents many challenges, we have been able to work through these with our client, BQ Energy; landfill owner, SWACO; and our cross-discipline team.”
BQ Energy plans to have electricity flowing from the solar park by 2024.

About the Author


Jonna Miller

Jonna Miller is a Marketing Manager with CEC. She has more than 30 years of experience in writing, editing and photography.

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