Millions saved with onsite mulching of solar trash


From pv magazine USA

Florida Power and Light (FPL), which is owned by renewable energy powerhouse NextEra, has spent the past two years mulching the cardboard boxes and wooden pallets used to ship solar panels.. The mulch is then applied on site.

It released images were of the ongoing process at a facility in McDavid, Florida. The Cotton Creek Solar Energy Center is the company’s standard 74.5 MW (AC) facility, with an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 panels installed, translating to roughly 90 MW (DC) to 120 MW. The site manager estimated that 9,900 pallets and cardboard boxes were used to deliver the solar panels.

Generally, trash removal from a facility involves paying for rented construction dumpsters to collect the material, plus the disposal fees of the garbage that fills the dumpsters. FPL’s project manager suggested that this project offsets costs by $180,000 per site, compared to a standard trash management process.

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The new process saves approximately $130,000 per site, even after accounting for the $50,000 cost of renting the grinding machine. Apply that over the company’s goal of installing 30 million modules by 2030, and the company says they expect to save close to $10 million via this technique.

The utility’s environmental team researched the specific materials in the pallets and boxes. They chose products that would be in compliance with the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program regulations on what can be mulched.

The company first tested the process at the Lakeside Solar Energy Center in 2019. Since then, they’ve repeated that process on 16 more sites, saving over $2 million in 2020 and 2021. The technique has become FPL’s standard disposal process for packaging.

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