Solar Champion Stories

Teamwork Makes the Largest Landfill Array in Maine

In November we celebrated the completion of the third stage of South Portland's solar array on their capped landfill. The full 4.3 megawatt array, with 12,746 photovoltaic panels, is now the largest landfill array in the state of Maine. It covers 63% of South Portland's municipal electric load, eliminating 4,100 metric tons of annual carbon emissions and saving taxpayers more than $20 million over the 40-year commercial life of the system. 

SoPo landfill sign.jpgThe project was financed through Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) managed by ReVision Energy. The City of South Portland paid nothing to install the solar panels. Instead, Calibrant Energy, a leading distributed energy company, paid the upfront cost and the City will pay for the power generated from the solar panels each month at a rate lower than utility-provided power. After seven years, the City has the option to purchase the system at a reduced price and own all of the solar power generated for the remainder of the warranty period and 40-year commercial lifespan.   

The Makings of a Large-Scale Solar Project

Besides being an important project for ReVision's home city, the South Portland landfill array was also exciting for many of our employee-owners. From development to finance to design, this project moved through many hands at ReVision Energy. Below we've highlighted just a few of the people and teams involved in such a large-scale project: 

Nate Niles & the Development Team:
"In 2020 the City ran a Request For Proposals and ReVision was honored to be chosen as the vendor. This marked the third time we've teamed up with the City (after installing a rooftop array on the Planning Department building, and completing "Phase 1" of the landfill project in 2017) and is a significant step-up in size from the prior projects. From the get-go, our development team oversaw the project's planning and permitting. This started with surveys of the property, delineating any natural resources adjacent to the landfill, and an evaluation of the landfill cap. Meanwhile, we worked with Central Maine Power to undergo a system impact study and receive approval for the project's interconnection. After our in-house design team drew up plans, we worked with Sevee Maher Engineers, our civil design partners, to manage the permitting process. Because the project is located on a landfill, this meant working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to amend the property's solid waste permit. Additionally, because of the project's scale, we worked with the City's Planning Board to receive a site plan review approval. By late 2021, all of the planning details were sorted and we were ready to hand the baton to our construction management team to break ground and make the project a reality. All-in-all, it was a fantastic project and we're so proud to build upon our prior work with the City to provide substantial electricity cost savings for decades to come."

Sam Clift, Designer:
“As the designer for this project, I have been working on this project for over 3 years! In the beginning stages of the project, I evaluated the landfills to see how many solar panels we could reasonably fit on the landfills, and created estimates for different designs. Once ReVision was awarded the projects, I worked in CAD to draft the plans needed to build the solar arrays. During this stage of the project, I also had to coordinate with outside groups like our civil engineering partner, the local utility, and the project investor. While the project was being built, I occasionally visited the site to see how construction was progressing and answered any questions our project manager or electrical subcontractor had. It is truly amazing to see something that started out on my computer screen come to life!”

Chris Donovan, Project Finance Manager:
"As the Project Finance Manager, I worked with ReVision’s design and estimating team to determine the overall cost for the project and then used that information to coordinate with Calibrant on what we could offer the City. Once we were in agreement with the City, I worked with ReVision’s legal and project management teams to negotiate the construction contract with Calibrant so that ReVision could install the system at no upfront cost for the City. "

James Hasselbeck and the Operations/Installation Team: 
"The ReVision Energy Operations Team was thrilled to complete construction on Phases 2 and 3 of this system. Project Manager Ashton Ireland worked closely with Site Superintendent Al Copping to coordinate everything to allow this project to be completed on budget and ahead of schedule.

Landfill construction requires many additional considerations to maintain the integrity of the landfill cap. Some of these include the use of special “low pressure” construction vehicles and equipment with oversize wheels and/or tracks to more evenly spread out material weights across the landfill. This can take extra time and care during the construction phase; there are over 100,000 individual parts and pieces which needed to be delivered, unloaded, brought to the correct location on this multi-acre site, and then assembled! 

We were particularly excited to utilize a racking system that relies on “geo ballast” instead of concrete for this project. Again, to maintain the integrity of the landfill, we were unable to use our “typical” solar foundations - 6’ tall screws drilled into the subsurface. In this case, Sam and our engineering team used a ballasted foundation - heavy weights to meet the local wind, snow, and environmental conditions. We used concrete to meet this need in our Phase 1 project in 2017, but since then have been looking for alternatives because the concrete manufacturing process is one of the most carbon-intensive construction materials in the world. To minimize the embedded carbon in the construction phase of this job, we were able to achieve the same structural integrity by using “rip rap," 4-6 inch pieces of stone sourced from a local quarry.

This project was an excellent example of the continued advances in solar technology and construction techniques to provide huge quantities of renewables energy to Mainers. Utilizing landfills, which are considered “Brownfield sites” because they are unsuitable locations for most other land uses as hosts sites for future renewable energy projects is something the ReVision team is very focused on. This allows us to continue adding local, clean energy sources in our communities while preserving our precious woods, fields and farmland. 

Jill McLaughlin, Digital Content Manager:
"As a resident of South Portland, it was incredible to watch this multi-phase project come together over the last few years as part of the One Climate Future plan. There have been so many people at ReVision involved in this install, and through my role on the marketing team I was thrilled to help out with the media and press surrounding the ribbon cutting." 

Phil Coupe, ReVision Energy Co-Founder: 
"Our mutually beneficial partnership with the City of South Portland began in 2012 with the installation of a rooftop solar array and electric vehicle charging stations at the City's Department of Planning and Development building at 496 Ocean Street. Ever since, we have been working with the City to gradually reduce fossil fuels and the resulting carbon pollution from all municipal facilities. We are grateful for South Portland's commitment to protecting clean air, water and land for all Mainers and look forward to working together to make the City environmentally sustainable for present and future generations."