New Tax Credit Could Boost Solar Energy Production on Landfills

Incentives aimed at brownfield development of renewable energy projects could give momentum to building solar farms on an underutilized property: closed municipal landfills.

1 minute read

March 5, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Solar panels on green inclined field on old landfill site in The Netherlands

Solar panels on a former landfill site in Bavel, The Netherlands. | Gerda Beekers / Solar panels on landfill in Bavel, The Netherlands

A new tax credit created through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) could boost the construction of solar farms on shuttered landfills and other brownfield sites, which could reduce the impact of solar installations on virgin land and make renewable energy production accessible to more communities.

As Taylor Kate Brown explains in a Governing article, closed landfills offer unique challenges and unique opportunities. They are often owned by local governments, have strong sun exposure, and are unsuitable for other types of development, making them a logical site for energy production. “But placing solar modules on these sites requires a different kind of installation: a ballasted system that doesn’t drive foundations deep into the ground, avoiding piercing the landfill cap and unsettling the waste below,” Brown explains.

The success of subsidies and incentives for renewable energy production offered by state governments indicates that the federal tax break could encourage more brownfield development of clean energy projects. After Massachusetts created subsidies for renewable energy projects located on landfills, the state, which only has 7 percent of the nation’s landfills, became home to 52 percent of U.S. utility-scale landfill solar projects. Now, municipalities that previously rejected solar landfill projects due to cost or complications are revisiting the idea.

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