PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Solar panel packaging for two northwest Florida solar energy centers is seeing new life as landscaping mulching.
Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light (FPL) is repurposing the packaging as landscaping mulch to ensure it doesn’t end up in a landfill.
Up to 250,000 photovoltaic solar panels were installed at the companies’ large-scale solar energy centers, including at Cotton Creek Solar Energy Center in Escambia County and Blue Spring Solar Energy Center in Jackson County. After the installation, 9,900 boxes and 9,900 pallets were left over.
FPL Senior Project Manager Matt McCord came up with the idea to put the wooden pallets and cardboard boxes through a large grinder to create a mound of ready-to-spread mulch perfect for supporting the growth of grass and wildflower seeds.
“The mulch is a great stabilizer and promotes the grass to grow, which causes the mulch to decompose even faster,” McCord said in a press release. “After a year’s time, it’s gone back to nature and you can’t see it anymore. The wildflowers and other vegetation are planted to transform the solar energy sites into stewardship sites that support wildlife and pollinators.”
The mulching operation went into full operation in summer 2020 after McCord said he learned from local agriculture farmers that cardboard and wooden pallets are good carbon sources for agriculture when composted. All boxes and pallets are verified to be free of paint and chemicals in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program regulations on what can be mulched.