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In Urbana, Illinois, a former landfill is now home to a community solar farm. With nearly 14,000 solar panels, it provides enough clean electricity to power a municipal building and about 300 homes.

“All the electricity that the city isn’t taking is available for community solar subscriptions for low- and moderate-income qualified households. So we’re expanding access to renewable energy to more households,” says Scott Tess, Urbana’s sustainability and resilience officer.

He says the benefits go beyond providing low-cost electricity to residents.

The solar project uses 40 acres of land that had been sitting mostly vacant since the dump closed and which was unsuitable for other development. And it generates lease payments and new tax revenue for the city of Urbana.

“It’s a really great opportunity for this city and any other city,” Tess says.

A recent study estimates that nationwide, over 4,000 landfills are suitable for solar development. And putting arrays on all of them could generate as much energy as is used by the entire state of South Carolina.

So more landfill solar projects like the one in Urbana could help other communities and the climate.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media