Solar landfills : A study of the concept in a Swedish setting
The increasing global energy demand, which today is mainly supplied by energy sources with a fossil origin, is a severe threat to the environment and to the security of supply. In order to handle these problems, renewable energy sources are promoted globally as well as nationally in Sweden. Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is one of the most mature and commercial renewable energy technologies and could play a vital role in phasing out fossil energy sources. In the emerging, promising concept of solar landfills, PV systems are installed on closed landfill sites in order to combine renewable electricity production with resource efficient use of land. In this study the legal, technical and financial aspects concerning a solar landfill project in a Swedish setting were investigated. Additionally, the potential of the concept on a regional level in Sweden was analysed. The methodology used in the study featured literature research, interviews, and a feasibility assessment of a solar landfill project on Visby landfill.
Regarding the legal aspects linked to a solar landfill project, an inconsistency between Swedish municipalities concerning the need of a building permit for a ground mounted PV system was revealed in the study. While some municipalities demand a building permit, others do not. Additionally, the fact that a closed landfill usually is classified as an environmentally hazardous activity doesn’t result in any need for additional permissions for a PV system installation on a closed landfill. Therefore, such legal aspects are not likely to hinder a solar landfill project to any great extent.
Considering the technical aspects, the choice of mounting system must be done carefully because of the special conditions which exist on a landfill site; such as ground penetration restrictions and risks of settlement. While a ballasted mounting system can avoid ground penetration, a driven pile mounting system generally features a lighter construction. Furthermore, a fixed tilt mounting system is preferred over a sun tracking mounting system due to the extra weight and sensitivity to settlement which comes with the latter choice. Regarding the choice of PV modules, thin film modules generally feature a lower weight and can therefore be advantageous in comparison with crystalline silicon modules. In the case of Visby landfill, where penetration was preferred to be avoided but where the risk of settlement was considered low, the PV system which was deemed most suitable for the site featured a ballasted fixed tilt mounting system with crystalline silicon PV modules.
Considering the financial aspects, the study emphasises the importance of using the produced electricity to offset consumed electricity in order to enable a sound investment. This can be done by a wise choice of owning and financing structure where the produced electricity offsets consumed electricity for a large consumer, e.g. an industry or a grocery store, or for a number of residences in a community solar. The economic feasibility also heavily depends on the projects’ possibility to use policy incentives and tax exemptions. The feasibility assessment of Visby landfill showed that the most economically feasible investment was possible by founding a community solar which offsets the members’ consumed electricity. Such an investment would feature a 10 year payback time and an internal rate of return of 8.3 %.
Finally, the potential of the solar landfill concept on a regional level was identified as significant. In a scenario where the PV system suggested for Visby landfill in the feasibility assessment is installed on all the suitable landfill sites on Gotland, the island has the possibility to produce 22 GWh of electricity from solar landfills, thereby meeting the regional energy goal set for 2020.
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