You’d never know by looking at it, or by the wildlife that calls it home. But the field behind the compost station in Canton, was once a landfill. After years of use, it has been closed and capped for more than 20 years. Though that is about to change thanks to a clever partnership with Boston-based Southern Sky Renewable Energy and the Town of Canton. Lately we’ve heard a lot about wind power projects around Massachusetts, but this project will get it’s power from the sun.
“What we’ve proposed is a 5.6 megawatt solar photovoltaic system, which will be built here on the top. It’ll be about 15 acres of the landfill,” says Frank McMahon of Southern Sky Renewable Energy. “It’ll be approximately 28, 000 solar panels laid out in the field, that’s going to cost approximately $30 million to install,” says Ralph Palumbo of Southern Sky Renewable Energy.
That’s nearly fifteen football fields of panels soaking up the sun to produce enough electricity for 750 homes. That will reduce the use of polluting fuels like oil, and there are financial incentives as well. Victor Del Vecchio is on the Board of Selectmen in Canton. He tells us the time is right for a project like this.
“Well, times are tough right now in Canton and in all communities in Massachusetts and throughout the country. So municipalities like Canton are forced to come up with ways of doing things better. So this is one way and aw we mentioned, we initiated it. One way of generating some revenue, which puts downward pressure on taxes, because if we can generate millions of dollars over the course of 25 years, then its making it a little easier for our taxpayers to fund other things that we need in town, so we’re viewing it as a wonderful opportunity,” Del Vecchio says.
Most of the millions Del Vecchio speaks of will come from a twenty year lease of the land by Southern Sky.
“That rent starts off at $300 thousand a year, and it escalates thereafter at 2 ½%. That is the primary financial incentive to the town,” Palumbo says.
That’s $300,000 a year before any electricity is even produced from existing land that has been costing the Town of Canton to maintain the landfill. That cost now goes to Southern Sky.
“We will be responsible to maintain the landfill, the vegetation of the landfill. Northing else other than that, the vegetation, which is another significant matter for the town over the course of 25 years. It’s a significant benefit for the town,” Palumbo says.
Once electricity starts being generated, the town will get more money from a combination of credits and rebates.
“For every kilowatt hour we produce here from our system, which should approximately be 6 million to 6.3 million on an annual basis, depending on productivity, they get a half cent per kilowatt hour. Which is, if you do the math, around 30,000 a year,” Palumbo says.
The company designed a system and has jumped over every regulatory hurdle. All Canton has to do now, is collect the money.
“It’s not the Town of Canton, we have no money at risk. That company is getting state and federal subsidies to do just this. Our federal and state leadership wants these kinds of projects. Not many municipalities have thought of putting it on a landfill. And this landfill is perfect for that. We have 40 open acres, we’re largely surrounded by commercial and industrial land, the impact on the neighboring community is minimal, given the very low height of these panels,” Del Vecchio says.