Camden County partners to bring more solar panels to landfills

By Andrew Schmertz

Under cloudy skies the talk was of solar power and how more of it is coming to a landfill in Pennsauken.

“Camden County has a sustainable Camden County program and our goal is to reduce the counties carbon footprint in our community by 50 percent. This project goes a long way,” said Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash. “Through the partnership we have with a public/private partnership it does not cost the county any money. We generate money because we’re selling the electricity to the grid.”

Already 11,000 solar panels fill some of the space over the tons of garbage. At a ground breaking, it was announced that 7,000 more are being built.

A private equity firm that invests in renewable energies is paying the $6 million to install the panels. Energy Power Partners will then split the electricity revenue with the county. The firm estimates that it will take six years to make back its investment.

“We own power projects like this across the United States, from landfill gas, to natural gas, to combined heat and power, to solar and wind. And that is part of renewing America’s energy future. We look to say how can we take what’s available like the sun and use that to do projects like that here from California, to Texas, to New Jersey,” said Steven Gabrielle from Energy Power Partners.

So why put solar panel on a landfill? This project will use 40 acres of space, space that would otherwise have little use.

“This is an area which wouldn’t be useable for anything else, really. You wouldn’t be able to build on it. You can’t do anything that would disturb the cap of the landfill. But we’re able to put these energy panels, solar panels on top of this landfill and take advantage of all the good sunshine that we get here,” David Aluthman, executive director of the Pollution Control Financing Authority of Camden County.

The solar panels will generate about 3.5 million kilowatts, which will just power 300 homes. The man who heads Camden’s pollution control entity says it all adds up.

“Number one, it doesn’t cost us anything to do. Number two, we’re getting revenue from land which is otherwise unusable. And number three, anything you can do, 300 homes here, someplace else there’s another project that’s going to produce energy for another 300. You got a do it in those little bits and pieces,” said Aluthman.

After the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord last month, the states were left with the decision on setting their own carbon footprint goals. And Camden doesn’t want to throw out any progress its making with the trash.