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Borrego Solar to build energy system on now-closed Riverhead landfill

Riverhead Town Hall is at 200 Howell Ave.

Riverhead Town Hall is at 200 Howell Ave. Credit: Carl Corry

The Riverhead Town Board awarded a 20-year lease to Borrego Solar — a San Diego-based solar energy firm — to build a solar photovoltaic energy system on 14.8 acres at the town’s now-closed Youngs Avenue landfill, at a special town board meeting Thursday.

The firm will pay Riverhead $145,600 a year for 20 years, for a total of $2,912,000, according to town Councilman George Gabrielsen, who served as town liaison to the project.

That revenue could increase if the solar system is expanded or upgraded, Gabrielsen said. “We have a profit-sharing agreement with them,” he said.

Borrego expects to generate 2.8 megawatts from the site, which covers only a small portion of the 70-acre capped landfill.

Gabrielsen said it might be expanded by an acre or so, but the ground’s slope makes it impractical to use most of the land for solar panels.

One special provision, Gabrielsen said, will allow schoolchildren to log on to a computer and see how much energy the solar cells produce, and how the power generated increases during the day as it gets sunnier.

The contract requires Long Island Power Authority approval.

Seven companies submitted proposals to the town. Borrego, formed in 1980, has completed more than 1,000 solar systems across the country, from the Boston College High School in Massachusetts to Edwards Air Force Base and the Warner Bros. Studio in California.

Riverhead officials have debated the future of the Youngs Avenue landfill for nearly a decade. Under a consent order to close and cap it from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the town decided to mine it instead and reclaim the hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand used each day to bury garbage, as well as any metals and other materials with commercial value.

But after removing 678,000 cubic yards of material at a cost of $40 million, the town found out it would cost more to finish the project than to cap and close it the traditional way.

“We spent so much. This way we’re getting something back,” Gabrielsen said.

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