As solar development has rapidly increased in the U.S., so has the demand for suitable land for solar projects. Looking for creative ways to increase renewable energy generation, the state of Minnesota turned to the idea of solar development on the 110 landfills in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Closed Landfill Program (CLP). In 2019, the Minnesota Legislature funded a study managed by the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to better understand the potential for solar development at the CLP sites. The EQB hired Barr to assist with stakeholder engagement and to provide a technical assessment that ranked the CLP sites (and two additional eligible sites) for solar development, identified barriers to development, and made recommendations to address the barriers.
The EQB, Barr, and the assembled stakeholders identified a comprehensive list of criteria and narrowed it down to key criteria that included site generation capacity, general obligation bond (GOB) usage, and transmission and distribution proximity. Because half of the CLP sites had GOB restrictions, Barr used the key criteria to develop a scoring and ranking model that identified the top five sites with GOB restrictions and the top five without them.
Barr estimated that there was 950 MW of solar potential on approximately 4,500 acres of CLP sites and that the top five bond-restricted and top five non-restricted sites did not represent the only favorable CLP sites for solar development. Barr also concluded there were some barriers to solar development on the sites, but they were not insurmountable, and we provided recommendations for addressing each key barrier. The report was accepted by the EQB board and provided to the Minnesota Legislature for its consideration.