Suburbs in New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts are finding new use for long-abandoned landfills: they are turning them into solar farms.

Landfills are typically unusable as land after being filled in and left to rot, as the methane being released from deep within them is toxic and responsible for about one-third of all methane emissions in the US. And while some landfills have been fitted with systems to capture and burn the methane in order to generate electricity, most of them sit idle in towns across the country waiting for someone to figure out how to reuse the space. Thankfully, some enterprising municipalities are thinking outside the box and using all that space for to generate energy from a much cleaner source: the sun.

In New Jersey for example, the state’s main utility company Public Service Electric and Gas recently began construction on a six-acre solar farm. Once completed, it will generate 1 MW of electricity, enough to power 1,000 average homes.

“Taking a former industrial site like this one and being able to build on it and be able to create a renewable form of energy for folks in this region is outstanding,” said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to New Jersey Public Radio.

Massachusetts also has its eyes on utilizing the land once used for waste disposal. According to the Boston Globe, the city of Canton will soon be home to the largest solar energy system installed on landfill space in the country, covering 15 acres with 24,000 photovoltaic panels. As of June 2012, twenty-three other Massachusetts towns have applied for permits to do the same.

As well as burning captured methane and the installation of solar farms, landfill space has been put to one other good use as of late: it’s being turned into much-needed public parks. With careful environmental remediation, acres of previously unusable land is being returned to the public in the form of athletic fields, performance venues, and wildlife sanctuaries. While some may question the safety of putting parks or solar panels on tops of landfills, I believe those who live near them would much rather that than a large dump that smells like rotten eggs. It’s most definitely a good thing.

[via GetSolar]

Image Credit: Redwin Law/Flickr