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Solar panels transform Pennsauken landfill

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Solar landfill in Pennsauken. Nora Muchanic reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on July 17, 2017. (WPVI)

The power of the sun is being captured by roughly 10,000 solar panels installed at the Pennsauken Sanitary Landfill on River Road.

It's part of a 13-year partnership between Camden County and a company called Energy Power Partners.

The plan now is to install 8,000 more panels, which combined with the originals will produce 3.5-million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, powering up to 300 homes.

"We are looking to increase the amount of clean energy here and really across the whole United States with this type of project," Steve Gabrielle of Energy Power Partners said.

The solar panels will produce the same amount of energy as burning 2.7 million pounds of coal without producing harmful greenhouse gasses.

Developing clean and renewable energy on contaminated land makes sense. The space would typically be unusable land, but the county is now using it to generate energy and income.

"We're also reducing our carbon footprint. This is our Paris climate accord right here on top of a landfill, so we are very proud of that," Jeffrey Nash, Camden County Freeholder, said.

In addition to the solar panels, the project also harnesses the methane gas produced by decomposing organic matter buried in the landfill.

"And that gas is then transmitted over to a power plant where it's burned and...creates electricity," David Luthman of the Pollution Control Financing Authority said.

The power is sold at a reduced rate directly to the landfill's next door neighbor, Aluminum Shapes, one of the biggest employers in the county.

Pennsauken's mayor Betsy McBride says the landfill has been transformed.

"It was just piles of trash and trucks and stench, and it's turning it from an eyesore into a beautiful, solar paneled field," McBride said.

The 8,000 new solar panels should be installed by the end of the year.
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