A Cuyahoga County landfill will soon house one of Ohio's most innovative solar arrays

A portion of a 75-acre capped landfill site in Brooklyn will soon be home to one of Ohio’s largest solar arrays that could save Cuyahoga County as much as $3 million in utility bills over 25 years.

Construction begins this week on placing 35,530 solar panels—each one about the size of the American Flag—on 17 acres of the landfill. Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish says the project is one of the most innovative in Ohio, creating more than five million kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

“This is very exciting and unique,” Budish says. “You can’t use a landfill for a whole lot because you can’t pierce the cap, ao we’re using the landfill in a productive manner—generating energy at a low cost. We’re reducing costs for the City of Brooklyn, and we’re reducing costs for the County.”

Through a 20-year land lease of the otherwise unused property, the agreement will help Brooklyn offset about $400,000 in maintenance costs over that period. The solar array will supply about five percent of the electricity consumed in 16 county-owned commercial buildings (the equivalent to powering 500 residential homes, according to officials).

While Columbus-based IGS Solar owns the solar panels, Cleveland Public Power (CPP) will purchase the purchase the power from IGS. Cuyahoga County will purchase 100 percent of the power from CPP, and the county will have the opportunity to buy the system before the 10-year power purchase agreement expires.

Enerlogics and McDonald Hopkins developed the project, and the panels were manufactured in Toledo. Additionally, the racking system was created and installed by Cincinnati-based RBI Solar, and the ballasts come from Canton.

In addition to the state-wide economic boost, the project is expected to create 100 jobs in the region. “We’re saving money and we’re creating jobs,” Budish says.

This is the first project of its kind in the state, although similar projects have been initiated in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Mike Foley, director of Cuyahoga County’s Department of Sustainability, says this project could lead to similar projects in the 70 additional closed and capped landfills in the county. “I’m concerned about climate change, I’m concerned about developing more clean energy,” he says. “This is local government stepping up and pushing the envelope in creating energy in a more effective manner.”

He says about half of the Brooklyn landfill is available for solar development, generating about four
megawatts of power.

Budish adds that the ability to expand the clean energy industry in Ohio simply fits with the region’s reputation as a manufacturing state. “If we can expand the manufacturing of solar panels in Ohio, we can be a hub for manufacturing,” he says. “We’re looking to create a clean manufacturing industry in Ohio.”

Budish also points out that the Cuyahoga County Solar Co-Op created in 2016 is already leading the way in residential clean energy for hundreds of residents who save money on their energy bills and enjoy a federal tax credit for solar panels on their homes. According to Foley, more than 200 households signed up for the program last year, with 31 installing solar panels.

More than 100 people have signed up for this year’s first co-op in January, and the installer already has contacts signed. The next co-op begins in June.

Foley says they have meetings scheduled for May in North Royalton, Detroit Shoreway, and Lyndhurst. “If nothing else, it's a great opportunity to learn about solar power with no pressure to buy anything,” he says.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.