doing it. Municipalities in states across the country have done it. Now, Branford has come up with a preliminary concept for the town’s landfill closure that includes solar panels on seven acres of the nearly 30-acre fill off Tabor Drive.
On Feb. 1, the gave its permission for the commission to move forward with the plans, which are being developed by the Manchester-based environmental engineering firm of Fuss & O’Neill.
“Relative to the overall town use of electricity, it’s very small,” said Mario Ricozzi, who chairs the Solid Waste Commission, of the energy the solar panels would produce.
And Ricozzi said that the incorporation of solar energy into plans for the landfill were not what he termed a done deal. Still, he said one catalyst for any use of solar panels on the landfill was their recent installation on the roof of . There, 12 solar panels have been in place for about a month.
“I believe they’re working just fine,” a DPW employee said.
Said Ricozzi: “We will be looking at [plans for solar energy] in more detail.”
He noted that an omnibus last year—this, Public Act 11-80—provides incentives for the development of renewable energy that include both grants toward the cost of its installation and tax credits that a municipality can gain.
According to Ricozzi, Old Saybrook is the model for the overall appearance of the landfill, which in the preliminary plans includes a vegetative buffer. Several years ago, that town converted a landfill into an area called Founders’ Park. Although no solar panels are part of it, the park is now a grassy area where people can go and sit.
Ricozzi said that the Branford landfill has been closed to solid waste for roughly 20 years, with the town sending that waste to the Covanta incinerator in Bristol. But he added that certain materials that can’t go to an incinerator to be burned and that do not decompose, such as a porcelain sink, have continued to go into the landfill. He termed that amount, a mere fraction of the solid waste the town generates, which he said totals approximately 13,000 tons a year. He noted that, at present, the landfill closure plans call for a shutdown of the landfill to even inorganic waste later this year.
He said that, after the BOS approval, the town can now have Fuss & O’Neill move forward with incorporating the solar concept into the closure plan, adding that the state, as part of its attention to renewable energy, vetted firms that specialize in renewable energy projects—the Charlottesville, Va.-based HelioSage LLC is one—but that the town would carefully review a number of firms that specialize in renewable energy on landfills to oversee any renewable energy project there.
Ricozzi said that many landfills have been closed and that, at times, these become almost nature reserves because of a lack of foot traffic. He said he had closed one landfill years ago and that it was “amazing to go back and see the deer and turkey population.”
“Right now, the closed portion [of the Branford landfill] has wildflowers. It’s just a big, gorgeous field,” he said.