**Title: Unlocking the Potential of Waste: Solar Farms on Landfills**
**Subheading 1: Solar Power Over Waste**
On a vast expanse of land behind a commuter town just east of London, 108,000 newly installed solar panels glint in the sun, soaking up energy that will soon be transported through cables to the UK capital.
**Subheading 2: Transforming Barren Land into Renewable Energy Sources**
Ordinarily, the site would have been attractive to developers looking to build houses, but the land parcel near South Ockendon has lain barren for the past 25 years. Dig a few feet into the ground and you’ll find out why: The site sits atop a 5 million ton trash heap that threatens to spew out poisonous methane if its seal is damaged.
**Subheading 3: Addressing Space Dilemmas for Clean Energy Providers**
Set to be one of the biggest solar parks in the UK when it comes online next month, the project helps solve a space dilemma often faced by clean energy providers tasked with supplying power to big cities. Although population density increases demand for cheaper and cleaner forms of electricity, it also creates a shortage of available land.
**Landfills: Vast Opportunities for Solar Farms**
“You can’t do a lot with a closed landfill, there aren’t too many competing reuse options for it,” said Matthew Popkin from the think tank Rocky Mountain Institute. “And unfortunately, but understandably, there is a landfill of some kind in most communities across the world because of the trash we have generated.”
**Subheading 4: Overcoming Technical Challenges**
While installing solar on disused trash heaps may be a logical solution to a space issue, it poses technical challenges that pushed up the price of the project. The panels had to be fixed in batches to ballasted bases made of concrete to prevent the foundations from damaging the landfill site’s seal. Some panels had to be installed with adjustable legs to accommodate ground movement over time as the trash decomposes.
**Subheading 5: The Cost Factors**
The project costs roughly £850,000 ($1.1 million) per megawatt of power produced, around 5% more than a solar farm installed on ordinary land. Similar ventures in other parts of the world have seen costs increase by as much as 15%, depending on the state of the landfill, freight, and material prices.
**Subheading 6: Overcoming Challenges and Inflation**
Despite challenges such as inflation, the project was able to move forward thanks to a contract to sell all the energy generated for the first 10 years to BT Group Plc. After that, the site will sell the energy produced at wholesale market prices.
**Subheading 7: Opportunities for Developers**
The cost of materials is starting to come down due to an oversupply of solar components from China, which has flooded the market and crashed spot prices to record-low levels. This, coupled with the viability of building on wasteland, can potentially unleash a new wave of solar projects. BloombergNEF expects over two gigawatts to be installed in the UK this year, up from 1.2 gigawatts in 2022.
**Subheading 8: Meeting Energy Demand in Big Cities**
Large-scale solar farms are usually built on disused land, but often it’s challenging to find such land near big cities that need the electricity the most. The UK’s largest park is located in North Wales, with 72 megawatts of capacity. An even bigger park is under construction near Faversham in Kent, just over 50 miles from London.
**Subheading 9: Grid Connection and Transmission**
In the UK, many new renewables projects, especially those in remote locations, are constrained by their lack of grid connection. Some face a decade-long wait to be connected. However, Ockendon was purchased with a grid connection offer in place, eliminating this problem.
**Subheading 10: Reinventing Landfill Sites for Renewable Energy**
Transmission, distribution, and proximity to electricity use are crucial factors when planning a solar project on landfill sites. Matthew Popkin from the Rocky Mountain Institute states that landfill solar offers a win-win solution by reinventing these sites for future energy needs.
**Subheading 11: Tapping into the Potential of Waste**
Walking across the Ockendon site, one wouldn’t know that they were stepping on layers of rotting garbage, except for the black plastic methane valves among the solar panels. Vast landfill sites near major cities often go unused.
**Subheading 12: Overcoming Challenges for Renewable Energy on Landfills**
“The question is, can we achieve the returns that the market is looking for on renewables building on a landfill, where you have to spend more money than you would normally spend?” says Eamonn Medley, director of business development at NTR Plc. “It’s hard, but it can be done.”