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Closed Landfills May Provide The Key To Energy Efficiency

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Decades of garbage is buried in more than 100 former landfills across the state. Now, there's growing interest in putting the closed waste sites to better use.

The Metropolitan Council is about to study their potential for producing energy, and that could turn waste into a windfall.

Walking paths through Lochness Park wrap around a giant hilltop, but the quiet getaway is actually built on a former garbage dump.

"We collectively as a society decided it was a good idea to put trash in the ground and now we know there's environmental harm spread from these sites," Cameran Bailey, the council's regional planner and solar adviser, said.

There are some 110 closed municipal landfills around Minnesota. The Metropolitan Council will study ways to turn them into solar farms, with the potential to produce 1.2 gigawatts of electricity. That's the amount of electricity consumed by about 100,000 to 145,000 typical Minnesota households annually.

The city of Hutchinson turned theirs into a 400-kilowatt solar farm. But there are challenges, like soil stability.

Tapping into the solar potential of landfills can help power a city's own electric needs, requiring very little extra infrastructure.

"This is a great way for cities and counties to save money if the landfill is located near a wastewater treatment plant or other large local government facility," Peter Lindstrom, of Clean Energy Resource Teams, said.

It could help local governments meet clean energy goals, benefiting from solar's falling cost and idled land.

Firms interested in doing the study have six days to submit proposals. The legislature wants the findings returned by December of next year.

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