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Texas Transforms Landfill Into A Solar Energy Facility

Bailey Alexander

The city of Farmers Branch recently announced a new sustainability plan that will make it the first city in Texas to have all of its operational needs met by solar energy. The city has partnered with BQ Energy to design, build and run a solar farm on city property, and it’s expected to be operational by 2024.

“Our [city] council is committed to fully and quickly enacting the policy changes necessary to produce a more sustainable future for Farmers Branch,” said Mayor Robert C. Dye. “This solar farm represents a major step in that direction.”

Photo Courtesy American Public Power Association

The agreement with BQ Energy includes a locked-in energy cost that will remain the same for 20 years, creating significant cost savings for the city and – in the form of lower taxes – for its residents. The solar facility will eventually connect to the Texas power grid and be distributed beyond city facilities through a regular power retailer, passing savings along to traditional consumers. Since the 13.6 million kilowatt-hours generated annually is far beyond what is needed to power the city’s buildings, street lights and other assets will be readily available for at least 1,000 consumers who choose to make the switch.

The site of the new solar facility is the city’s former landfill, another way that the Dallas-area Farmers Branch is mitigating its carbon footprint.

The landfill site had been closed for 40 years and was in a degraded state, with noise and land pollution issues that prevented its rehabilitation. This positive use of the acreage for a solar facility essentially solves two issues at once.

Photo Courtesy James Day

“There are limited uses that we can do with the land without paying for remediation, which for a site that big is very expensive,” explained the city’s Sustainability Manager Alexander Pharmakis. “If it’s not remediated, then the city can be liable for that since it was a former municipal landfill. Since [the solar farm is] not going to be puncturing the cap of the landfill or anything like that, putting solar there is a pretty good use for the site.”

The move to solar is a part of Farmers Branch’s overall Sustainability Plan which focuses on improvements in six areas: transportation, waste, natural resources, the environment, economic wellness, and community vitality. For a city that calls itself a “City in a Park,” the plan is a wise way to move forward for a healthier, more sustainable and economically viable future for the town and its residents.

Dallas-Fort Worth area residents may also be interested in the Texas Solar Switch. This organization bundles group solar panel purchases to help homeowners with lower prices for solar panel installation.

Photo Courtesy Helena Lopes

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