NYC’s largest solar facility coming to former Staten Island dump

Freshkills Park Solar farm on Staten IslandMother Nature Network

In an announcement made last week by outgoing Nanny-in-Chief Michael Bloomberg, it was revealed that the mythical land of runaway zebras and Mafia Wives the borough of Staten Island will be home to New York City’s largest solar installation — a 10-megawatt power plant that, when completed, will have the capacity to produce enough juice to power in the ballpark of 2,000 homes. More specifically, the facility will be located on what used to be the largest landfill in the entire world before New York City started to export its insane amount of garbage to other states (thanks a bunch Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania!) in 2001.  

Forty-seven of the 2,200 acres that make up New York’s former primo/primary dumping ground, Fresh Kills Landfill, will be leased by the city as part of a 20-year agreement with SunEdison, the Belmont, Calif.-based solar power plant operator and energy provider that won a public bid to develop, build, and run the project. All energy produced at the SunEdison-operated facility, composed of 30,000 to 35,000 solar panels spread across two different sites, will be fed directly into the city’s Con Edison-managed electrical grid.

Scheduled to break ground in 2015 and be up and running at some point the following year provided that there are no setbacks, it’s estimated that the plant will more than double the city’s solar production.

The whole solar-installation-in-the-world’s-largest-dump thing is pretty remarkable as is without considering the fact that all 2,200 acres of Fresh Kills is currently subject to an ambitious, three-phase landfill reclamation project which, over the course of 30 years, will see the contaminated wasteland be transformed into a sprawling urban greenspace three times the size of Central Park. Located along a wildlife-filled estuary in what used to be a rural stretch of western Staten Island, Fresh Kill Landfill and its barged-in trash mountains had surpassed the height of the Statue of Liberty by the start of 2001. The landfill was shut down that year after more than 50 years in operation.

Designed by James Corner Field Operations of High Line fame and overseen by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation along with the NYC Department of Sanitation, the sustainability-minded Freshkills Park will see the former dump revert back to a wild, wonderful, and recreation-heavy wetland area — “a symbol of renewal and an expression of how our society can restore balance to its landscape” — complete with designated wildlife areas, hiking and biking trails, bird-watching structures, meadows, a 9/11 memorial, equestrian centers, playing fields, and much more.

Explains the Environmental Defense Fund’s Andy Darrell in a press release issued by Mayor Bloomberg’s office: “At Fresh Kills, a mountain of trash is becoming an oasis of green, with room for parks, wildlife and renewable energy. The price of solar panels is at historic lows, and it’s innovation like this that can help make the benefits of solar power available to more New Yorkers.”

Rendering of what Freshkills will look like

Bloomberg himself drives home that fact that “Freshkills was once the site of the largest landfill in the world. Soon it will be one of the city’s largest parks, and the site of the largest solar power installation ever developed within the five boroughs.” He continues: “Over the last 12 years we’ve restored wetlands and vegetation and opened new parks and soccer fields at the edges of the site. Thanks to the agreement today we will increase the amount of solar energy produced in New York City by 50 percent and it is only fitting that Freshkills, once a daily dumping ground, will become a showcase urban renewal and sustainability.”

Although the process of converting what used to be the world’s largest dump into a “productive and beautiful cultural destination” is coming along slowly but surely, the SunEdison project will no doubt give Freshkills Park a nice little boost along with some well-deserved added attention from neglectful New Yorkers residing in the other four boroughs (connected to Lower Manhattan by ferry and to Brooklyn by the Verrazano Bridge, Staten Island has always been more spiritually aligned with New Jersey than New York, given its geography).

A renewable energy project doubling as a morale-booster, the solar facility also gives Staten Islanders something to be proud of in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. During its devastating tour through the Eastern seaboard area, the historic hurricane-hybrid storm pummeled low-lying areas of Staten Island, wiped entire communities off of the map, and lead to widespread underwear shortages. New York City’s smallest borough got it particularly bad.

In addition to New York City’s largest solar power plant going up on a small section of what used to be the world’s largest dump, across Staten Island in the northeast neighborhood of St. George another job-creating but altogether different project was given the green light back in October: the world’s tallest (a terrifying 630 feet!) Ferris wheel. The waterfront redevelopment project in St. George will also include a large outlet mall complex — perfect for acrophobics who need to buy new designer handbags after barfing into their old ones atop the New York Wheel.

Via [WSJ]

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