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Transforming Oxford’s landfill into solar energy

Chantel Rhagu said solar energy is the most feasible option due to the toxic gasses located in the sealed landfill.
Chantel Rhagu said solar energy is the most feasible option due to the toxic gasses located in the sealed landfill.

Oxford sealed its landfill in 1989

. And eventually, its surface could sustain enough solar power to run the city.

In 2021, Oxford signed a three-year exercisable lease option giving BQ Energy Development the right to build and manage a solar farm on its 20-acre closed landfill on Riggs Road. However, Clean Capital acquired the company the same year, stunting the process indefinitely.

In the meantime, Oxford’s usual supplier, Duke Energy, must connect electricity to the line on the southern end of the future construction zone. BQ will then assume all responsibility for the project, but first it needs the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve its design.

Chantel Raghu, the Oxford City Council representative for the environmental commission for Oxford, predicts this upcoming structure will fuel close to 150 homes and spare residents from expensive rooftop installations.

“We’re essentially renting the land out to a private company, so we don’t have to pay for the upfront build of it,” Raghu said. “Which means the cost to enter into it and get the benefits is so much more accessible to everybody.”

Residents can already subsidize wind energy by purchasing renewable energy certificates (REC) which invest in windmill farms nationwide, but Oxford owns no windmills. Michael McNulty, BQ’s senior project manager, said putting up such massive foundations would weigh the landfill down too much and therefore solicit an excavation. That requires permission from the Ohio EPA and a risk of releasing the toxic gasses once smoothed into the ground and trapped by plastic.

Out of all of Oxford’s ideas for diverse energy, Raghu said solar is the most feasible.

Photo by BQ Energy Development | The Miami Student
Oxford sealed its landfill in 1989. But eventually, its surface could sustain enough solar power to run the city.

BQ’s progress on a southwestern district of Columbus’ landfill inspired Oxford city manager Doug Elliott to pursue it here.

“We're looking to reduce our carbon footprint, for both the city facilities, our operations, as well as for the community as a whole,” Elliott said. “I’m confident that we’re going to have a project [on the landfill], it just takes some time.”

David Trelevan, Oxford’s environmental specialist, encourages the landfill’s transformation.

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“The potential use for the landfill in the future is very limited because of the trash underneath it,” Trelevan said. “This is unique for southwest Ohio.”

Trelevan said Oxford receives its electrical services from predominantly green sources. The city’s new comprehensive plan includes a section dedicated to sustainability.

Shana Rosenberg lives near the project’s site and said she will have no obstructing view besides some reflection in the daytime. Before, she saw only the remains of Oxford’s construction materials.

Rosenberg suspects property owners wanting a more urban aesthetic might feel differently, but she applauds the city for its work.

“With the election of certain city councilors in the past few years, there's been more and more of an understanding of why it makes sense for the city to go into sustainability,” Rosenberg said. “It’s so good the town is expanding this renewable energy capability for us. It’s helping the planet and our citizens right now.”

Oxford’s other renewable energy efforts include a wind-subsidized electrical aggregation opt-out program and the expired Solarized Oxford Program, which allowed bulk purchases of solar panels for 16 local homes, churches and business.