Houston approves brownfield solar project

The city plans to convert a 240-acre closed landfill into the largest brownfield solar installation in the nation.

Houston has approved a lease agreement with Sunnyside Energy LLC to advance the Sunnyside Solar Project, a public-private partnership to convert the 240-acre closed landfill in Sunnyside into the largest brownfield solar installation in the nation.

According to a release, the project is an example of how the city of Houston is working to find innovative, public-private solutions to addresses historic environmental justice concerns, climate change and economic development in underserved communities.

“The Sunnyside landfill has been one of Houston's biggest community challenges for decades, and I am proud we are one step closer to its transformation," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. "I thank the Sunnyside community because this project would not have come together without its support. This project is an example of how cities can work with the community to address long-standing environmental justice concerns holistically, create green jobs and generate renewable energy in the process.”

The project, developed by Sunnyside Energy, will be anchored by a 50 megawatt (MW) ballasted solar array that will generate enough renewable energy to power 5,000 homes and offset 120 million pounds of CO2 each year. The array is expected to be installed and operational by the end of 2022—at no cost to the city.

In 2017, the city of Houston joined the C40 Reinventing Cities Competition—a global competition to develop innovative, carbon-free and resilient urban projects. Through the competition, Houston and 13 other cities across the globe identified for redevelopment under-utilized parcels of land. Through this effort, the city selected the winning proposal from Wolfe Energy LLC

After receiving the green light to move the proposal forward, Wolfe Energy formed Sunnyside Energy, a team of engineers, architects, community members and artists, to transform the abandoned landfill site into an urban solar farm.

Under the terms of the lease agreement approved by city council, the city will retain ownership of the land, but the tenant will be responsible for the permitting, construction, operation and maintenance of the project ( an estimated $70 million private investment for the community).

In the coming months, Sunnyside Energy will work to secure all necessary state and local permits and finalize financing and design plans to ensure the project meets the most rigorous environmental safety standards before construction.

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