Stronghold Engineering, Inc. has been in the construction industry for over 30 years. The company’s 30 years of operation have been marked by great milestones in quick succession. One of the ways Stronghold has been able to continue its growth is through keeping up with best practices in the industry. Not only this but Stronghold is also a company that is committed to the community it serves. It has supported important causes throughout its history, whether its children’s health or the environment. With regards to the environment, Stronghold Engineering has been trying to tackle climate change to the best of its ability. The company has made it a habit to incorporate sustainable practices into its operations as much as possible.
It is common knowledge that renewable sources of energy are the way to go, to slow down climate change. The team at Stronghold understands this and has been actively taking actions to facilitate a transfer towards renewable sources of energy. Stronghold’s efforts have been recognized by the Solar Power World who recognized them as the Top Solar Contractors in 2021.
In this article, we will be discussing one of the major solar power plant installations that are nearing completion at the site of the West Riverside Landfill in the City of Jurupa Valley, CA. When the County of Riverside had put out a Request for Proposal for the contract, Stronghold responded with its proposal and won the contract. The installation will cover an area of 74 acres. It is an unlikely pairing, a landfill and a solar power plant. However, it is an emerging trend considering that it is a useful way of repurposing used landfills.
Waste that is not recycled ends up in large landfills. Consequently, landfills are notorious for being a huge environmental hazard. They prove to be particularly toxic for the surrounding area. As the rubbish decays, a mix of toxins and water mix up to form leachates. This highly toxic liquid then pollutes the surrounding land, waterways and groundwater. When landfill sites are full they are covered with clay and then a plastic sheet. This is called a capped landfill. Capped landfills have no oxygen in them. Consequently, when bacteria break down rubbish in the absence of oxygen, methane is formed. Methane is a greenhouse gas and is 25 per cent more harmful than carbon dioxide. It is also flammable. A landfill becomes an even bigger menace once it has been filled because it can be very difficult to find developers who are willing to invest in the landfill to repurpose the area. It is also a problem for the community as the area surrounding the landfill is filled with a stench, and for obvious reasons, people do not want to live in such an area.
In the past, landfills have been repurposed as ball fields and parks. However, it is difficult to convince people to use these facilities. The solution? Solar power plants. It is an easy way for the owners of the landfills that have been capped to generate income. Moreover, an environmental hazard’s impact is offset by a measure that is helpful for the environment. There are two reasons why capped landfills are good sites for the installation of a solar power plant. First, landfills are already fenced off, which lowers the cost of setting up solar power plants. Landfills also prove viable sites for solar energy in the long run. They are usually flat which makes installation less of a challenge. No surrounding trees mean plenty of sunlight and the extremely slow rate of decay abates any concerns of settlement. As the number of active landfills slowly decreases, in the future, such places could be used as great sources of renewable energy.
The question for most developers is whether it would prove profitable in the long run to operate a solar power plant. In the case of the West Riverside Landfill, the project is a profitable one considering that Scott Bailey, Stronghold’s Chief Operations Officer, has managed to secure a 26-year lease that was executed in 2015. The company has also entered into a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with the Lake Elsinore Unified School District (LEUSD).
This project is able to generate 3.094MW of energy using the Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer (RES-BCT) program. This will be possible with the participation of South California Edison. The RES-BCT program was approved in 2009. With the help of this program, local governments and school districts can generate their electricity. Renewable power plants of up to 5MW can be installed within a given area. Any excess energy generated can then be exported to SCE’s grid. This is converted into “generation credits” and can then be used to offset energy costs.
The solar panels that have already been installed have already started to benefit the school district, offsetting energy costs for fourteen LEUSD schools and administration buildings. Currently, there are 9,520 photovoltaic modules installed in the West Riverside Landfill SF1 facility, covering an area of more than 14 acres. The work has been carried out with great caution ensuring that none of the underground work penetrates the protective cap of the landfill. To make sure that the protective cap was not damaged, Stronghold liaised with multiple environmental agencies to ensure the project was feasible and the landfill cap is not damaged. This meant creating another layer with concrete on top of the landfill to accommodate the underground conduit.
When Stronghold had started the project, the site was not in the best of conditions. The landfill cover was not of good quality and the area surrounding the landfill was dilapidated. To counter this, resurfacing was done by Stronghold to properly cover the landfill cover. The perimeter of the landfill was also beautified. This included, chain-link fencing, new sidewalks, security cameras, lighting, new sidewalks, and landscaping was done around the area.
In the next phase of the project, Stronghold will be installing a 5.3 MW solar grid system and another 1.5 MW solar grid system during Phase 3.