Solar Power Station Built on top of Massachusetts Superfund Site

Solar installation.

One person’s trash is another person’s location for a solar power station. A 5.8 megawatt ground-mounted solar array project located on the Nyanza Chemical Waste Dump Superfund Site in Ashland, Mass., was completed and connected to the grid in January.

The clean energy produced from the solar array will support the town of Ashland. The electricity is generated by two separate solar arrays, one constructed on the landfill cap and one near the MBTA access road.

The solar power station includes 15,562 ballast-mounted photovoltaic modules and 26 combiners that feed into three central solar inverters. Aldon Electric, Weymouth, Mass., worked with CS Energy, Edison, N.J., RLC Engineering, Hallowell, ME and Ashland Solar, LLC to complete the project in three months. Aldon Electric managed a crew of 57 IBEW Local 96, Local 223 and Local 103 electricians.

The solar project is located on a capped 12-acre landfill, according to an October 2019 Superfund Site Update from Ashland, Mass. The former Nyanza Chemical facility produced textile dyes from 1917-1978 and disposed of volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and heavy metals on-site, as well as in the Sudbury River. The Superfund Site was added to the National Priority List in 1983 and the landfill cap was constructed in two phases and completed in 2001.

To ensure safety, daily monitoring of ground disturbance on the site was conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, according to Andrew Horvitz, the Principal of Horvitz Communications.

“When you’re working on landfills, there’s definitely safety precautions [to follow],” said Allen Mullaney, president and principal of Aldon Electric. “You must maintain the integrity of the cap. We restricted the weight of the machines going across the cap. It’s all about distribution.”

Erosion control is also an important factor, said John Michael, COO and vice president of construction at Aldon Electric.

“We worked hand in hand with the conservation commission,” Michael said. “The EPA representative was on site almost daily to check if there were any ruptures in the cap.”

Winter conditions and snowmelt can also cause issues during construction.

“We had a relatively mild winter, so when the snow melted there was water distribution across the cap,” Michael said, “It doesn’t drain very well. But half of the site wasn’t on a landfill and ponding was another issue.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has impacted many industries, shutting down the economy in an unprecedented manner, solar installation has continued.

“Six-foot separation is pretty easy on a solar field,” Michael said.

“The biggest problem is checking people in the morning to see if they have a fever,” Mullaney said. “And the fact that you can’t carpool, so everyone has to take their own car to the site.”

Aldon Electric is currently finishing up another solar system on a landfill in Beverly, Mass., which will produce 4.9 megawatts.

About the Author

Marlena Chertock

Freelance Writer

Marlena Chertock is a former editorial intern at Electrical Contractor magazine who now writes for the magazine as a freelance journalist. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Marketplace, NBC News, News21, WTOP and The Gazette. Contact...

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