Millions saved with onsite mulching of solar trash


Florida Power & Light (FPL) – owned by the renewable energy power house NextEra – has spent the past two years mulching the cardboard boxes and wooden pallets used to ship solar panels.. The mulch is then applied onsite.

Images were released of the ongoing process at a McDavid, Florida facility. The Cotton Creek Solar Energy Center is the company’s standard 74.5 MWac facility, with an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 panels installed, translating to roughly 90 to 120 MWdc. 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 vs a standard trash management process.

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, choosing products that would be in compliance with the U.S. 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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