A new plan has emerged for the 173-acre former landfill site near the intersection of I-71 and I-270 on the South Side. SWACO will lease the land to New York-based BQ Energy Development to build a 50-megawatt solar energy facility.
The SWACO Board of Trustees approved a contract for the project, which will be known as Columbus Solar Park, at its June meeting. The contract establishes a lease term of 25 years, with an option to renew, and commits the company to complete the construction of the facility within the next three years.
“This innovative partnership with BQ Energy exemplifies what SWACO and Central Ohio are all about,” said SWACO Executive Director Ty Marsh in a statement. “Together we are turning waste into resources by transforming an otherwise unusable piece of property into an economic engine that will generate jobs and revenue for this community while creating a visible representation of the Columbus Region’s commitment to clean, renewable energy.”
The site served as Franklin County’s landfill from 1967 to 1985. SWACO took over the management of the closed landfill in 1987, and in 2000 opened the Phoenix Links Golf Course on top of it (the course closed 2015 when SWACO was unable to find an operator to run it).
Traditional development of the site, which sits in Jackson Township, would not be a simple endeavor. Although there are plenty of examples of housing and other types of buildings being constructed on top of former landfills, the process is complicated because of both environmental and structural concerns (refuse continues to decompose and shift, making the ground unstable).
BQ Energy has built solar facilities on former landfills and other brownfield sites around the country, and lists over a dozen similar projects currently under development on its website.
The 50 megawatt facility planned for Columbus would supply enough energy to power about 5,000 homes for a year, according to SWACO.
Columbus Solar Park will operate the facility and sell the electricity, paying SWACO rent that would go up as more electricity capacity is added.
The news of the planned solar farm comes as the City of Columbus is pursuing a utility aggregation program designed to encourage the development of new local renewable energy projects. A hearing on the proposal, which will likely be brought before voters in November, was held by city council on July 7.