Community Environment

Solar array planned for former Purdy landfill

Posted on June 27th, 2024 By:

Pierce County plans to build a large solar power array at the old Purdy landfill, paid for by a $2.3 million grant from the state Department of Commerce.

The grant comes from proceeds from the 2021 Climate Commitment Act. The law created a cap-and-invest program designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

The Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department hopes to select a contractor for the project by this fall. Work should be complete by June 2025.

Construction should not disrupt operations at the Purdy transfer station, which operates adjacent to the old landfill. 

The site of the old Purdy landfill will become a solar power array. Photo courtesy of Pierce County Planning and Public Works

Solar array ‘ideal land use’ for closed dump

The landfill operated from 1941 to 1989 at 14515 54th Ave. NW in Purdy. The state Department of Ecology removed the landfill from its hazardous sites list in 2017. But that doesn’t mean the property is suitable for every purpose.

“A large solar array is an ideal land use for the closed landfill,” Pierce County Planning and Public Works spokeswoman Michelle Kircher said in an email. “Due to the industrial nature of solid waste functions at the site, the closed landfill is not well suited as recreational space for the community.”

A 12-inch layer of soil caps the old landfill. That soil can’t be disturbed. The land slopes to the south, which should provide good exposure for the solar panels.

“A ground-mounted solar array that uses a ballast mounting system without deep excavation is a way for the landfill site to continue providing community benefit post closure,” Kircher said. 

Working out the details

A preliminary analysis of the old landfill indicates it can host a 1 megawatt solar array. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 1 megawatt is enough to power about 100 homes in cloudy Washington state.

Kircher noted that solar energy was a priority identified in the county’s Sustainability 2030: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan. The plan, approved by the county council in 2021, sets a goal of reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030.

Pierce County plans to reinvest any revenue generated by the solar farm to fund energy assistance and efficiency projects that benefit low-income residents on the Key Peninsula.

The county is still working out details of exactly how to go about that. Officials are also still determining details on connecting the new solar array to the electrical grid. They also don’t know yet how many acres or solar panels will be involved. 

Pierce County owns the site of the old landfill, located on the same property as the current transfer station. But the property isn’t suitable for most purposes. Photo courtesy Pierce County Planning and Public Works

Climate Commitment Act 

The 2021 Climate Commitment Act generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2023, according to the state Department of Ecology.

Money for the Purdy project was part of $72.6 million devoted to supporting 71 clean-energy projects. It was the 11th-largest award doled out by the Department of Commerce and the second-largest in Pierce County, after a solar project proposed by the Port of Tacoma.

“These awards get money into the hands of people who can immediately put it to use fighting climate change,” Commerce Director Mike Fong said in a news release. “These communities were empowered to use their own discretion to create projects that meet their needs, which will improve outcomes for everyone in Washington.”

Washington state voters will determine the future of the Climate Commitment Act this fall. Nearly 420,000 Washingtonians signed a petition last year to put a repeal of the act before voters.

The Washington State Standard reported that Let’s Go Washington underwrote the effort. Hedge fund manager Brian Heywood largely funds Let’s Go Washington, a conservative political committee.

The repeal ballot initiative, known as Initiative 2117, will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.