COLUMNS

From Waste to Resources: Former landfill to become solar-energy farm

TY MARSH
Ty Marsh

SWACO just took another step toward its vision of a community that is environmentally safe and resourceful, and I'm excited to share the news.

At SWACO's June board meeting, our board of trustees unanimously approved a contract with a company called Columbus Solar Park LLC to lease the approximately 173-acre property that once served as the county's sanitary landfill and put it back into productive reuse as a solar farm.

The agreement will turn an otherwise unusable piece of property into an economic engine that will generate jobs and revenue. It also will be the first solar array on a closed landfill site in Franklin County.

Columbus Solar Park is an affiliate of BQ Energy Development LLC, a Wappingers Falls, New York, company specializing in the development of wind and solar projects on former landfills and other brownfield sites.

The contract with Columbus Solar Park stipulates it will develop, build and operate a solar facility on the property after it can secure purchase agreements – ideally locally – for the electricity that will be generated. The purchase agreements then will be used to underwrite the project.

The property is between Jackson Pike and Interstate 71 in Grove City and was home to the Model Landfill, which was Franklin County's sanitary landfill from 1967 until 1985. It was replaced by the current sanitary landfill on London Groveport Road.

In 1987, SWACO took over the management of the former landfill and opened the Phoenix Golf Links course in 2000. Since the golf course closed five years ago, SWACO has wanted to build something on the site that benefits the community, offsets its nearly $400,000 annual maintenance costs and aligns with our sustainability goals.

Last year, we conducted a land-use study to determine what type of development – if any – the site could accommodate. We were thrilled when the study revealed that the site is well-suited for a solar-energy project, something that meets all our requirements.

Under the agreement, Columbus Solar Park has up to three years to complete the facility's design and construction, during which time SWACO will receive fixed annual rent payments.

When the solar farm is built, Columbus Solar Park will operate the facility and sell the electricity, which will be available to local entities to buy.

SWACO will receive an escalating rental payment based on the megawatt capacity of the farm. The lease runs approximately 25 years, with a mutual option to extend.

The revenue we earn from the solar farm not only will make the site financially self-sustaining, it will enable SWACO to develop more educational programming and add to our community's recycling and composting infrastructure.

It's a perfect example of SWACO's commitment to leveraging the waste stream for economic opportunities that benefit the residents and businesses in central Ohio.

Together, SWACO and Columbus Solar Park are taking a closed landfill and putting it into productive reuse as a solar farm, which is both environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible.

This public-private partnership benefits the entire community and sends a powerful message about central Ohio.

As people head toward downtown from the south along I-71, the solar farm will reinforce our community's commitment to and advancement of sustainability and serve as a reminder that Columbus is a smart city using ingenuity to enhance our quality of life.

Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. Questions about its operations may be directed to him at questions@swaco.org. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.