In a recent Engineering Update, we took a look at Japan’s largest solar power plant, which boasts the capability of powering 22,000 homes with its 313 acre facility. Now, we’re checking out New York’s newest solar project. This solar facility will be located at Freshkills Park on Staten Island and was, at one point, considered to be the largest landfill in the world. As you can imagine a city with over 8 million people create a lot of trash and, as the principal landfill, much of it ended up at this 2,200 acre park. In fact at its highest trash peak, the waste facility, which opened in 1947, was adding 650 tons of garbage to the site every day. More recently, after 9/11 the site was used as a sorting grounds for much of the rubble, some of which is buried on-site.
In an attempt to “restore balance to the landscape” there has been a concerted effort over the past years to turn the giant landfill into something more environmentally and people-friendly. This means utilizing the park, which is divided into five sections, for recreation including hiking, horseback riding, plant and animal viewing, boating, sports and other activites. The rehab started in 2006 and is supposed to take 30 years to fully revitalize the area.
The solar power plant will occupy just 47 acres of the available land as plans to rehabilitate the area involve turning the rest of the park into actual educational and enjoyable land. Altogether, it will supply about 50 megawatts of power or enough to power about 2,000 homes. The whole facility will house about 35,000 high-efficiency solar panels installed and operated by Sun Edison. The panels will increase NYC’s current renewable energy capacity by 50 percent.
In addition to the solar power plant currently being built, the site also provides a large amount of methane, which the city harvests, purifies and sells to National Grid. The site generates 5 million cubic feet of usable methane (enough to heat 20,000 to 30,000 homes) and makes about 1 million dollars per month from the sale.
This is a great use of historically unusable land. Landfills are a tough environmental problem, and it’s nice to see the city attempting to use the land to benefit the city and the population that calls it home.