Nearly 20,000 Boxes And Pallets Turned Into Mulch At McDavid Solar Energy Site

January 9, 2022

There were nearly 10,000 refrigerator-sized boxes and the same number of wooden pallets that needed disposal after solar panels were installed off Bogia Road in Escambia County.

The solar panels were installed at Florida Power & Light’s large-scale Cotton Creek Solar Energy Center in McDavid.

Always on the hunt for solutions, FPL Senior Project Manager Matt McCord came up with an environmentally friendly, cost-saving way to deal with the mountain of refuse by repurposing it and returning the materials back to the Earth.

After some 200,000 to 250,000 solar panels were bolted into their frames at Cotton Creek Solar Energy Center, a large grinder chewed up the wooden pallets and cardboard boxes, spitting out the nails into a container. A steady spray of finely chewed-up cardboard and wood spewed out of a conveyor belt, creating a mound of ready-to-spread mulch that is said to be 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,” he said. “The wildflowers and other vegetation are planted to transform the solar energy sites into stewardship sites that support wildlife and pollinators.”

Mulching replaces the costlier and less eco-friendly methods of discarding the tons of packaging into landfills and legally burning the wooden pallets. That, McCord said, would have cost about $180,000 for the McDavid site.

“All of that takes manpower and trucks,” McCord remarked. “The new method costs about $50,000 per solar site. Plus, we’re not burning or sending this material to the landfill. We’re working to reduce our carbon footprint through our 30-by-30 solar plan and the retirement of coal. By the time we’ve completed the 30-by-30 plan, you’re talking in the ballpark of $10 million in savings. This is good for the environment and saves our customers money.”

The 30-by-30 plan calls for the installation of 30 million solar panels statewide by 2030 to reduce carbon emissions and create a more sustainable energy future while meeting the growing electricity needs of customers.

Initially, McCord looked into different options – composting offsite and selling the compost and composting on the solar sites and hauling waste off.

“That’s when I thought, what if we mulch it on-site and never move it?” he said. “Let it compost and go back to nature. All we have to do is spread the mulch out. And in a few days, we put seed down and we have grass growing, and we have a very cheap and environmentally friendly solution. After a year’s time, you can’t see the mulch anymore because it goes back to nature.”

FPL’s environmental team vetted and advised on the process based on federal and state regulations. McCord said all boxes and pallets verified to be free of paint and chemicals in accordance with the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program regulations can be mulched.

FPL says the same mulching process will be used later this year at the First City Solar Energy Center, a second solar site to build in North Escambia off Holland, Cox and Roach roads in McDavid.

Photos for, click to enlarge.


16 Responses to “Nearly 20,000 Boxes And Pallets Turned Into Mulch At McDavid Solar Energy Site”

  1. Karma on January 13th, 2022 9:33 am

    In the long run this is going to be a disaster, I’m all for solar but it should have been done very different. Why use land where wildlife live and you have to cut all the trees down, if they keep taking trees down there won’t be any more, then what they gonna do, be sitting back looking ugly. Theirs so many different species of wildlife that lives on these properties, it’s sad how no one speaks up for wildlife, we are their voice and something has to be done, why not use all these roof tops that aren’t doing anything but catching sun and rain. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Common sense, wake up people. If you knew better you would do better, now let that sink in. Don’t nobody want to hear the truth.

  2. Ol' Skinny on January 10th, 2022 8:19 am

    In response to Randon …. Your mention of the “100 acres of beautiful forest” made my blood boil. Are you now going to try to tell me what I can and can’t do with my own private property? Property that I have been paying taxes on for the past 15 – 20 years while I waited to harvest my crop? When you talk about THEY STRIPPED.PILED and BURNED … you are talking about the local land owners that have sacrificed and waited years to collect. How many packages in cardboard boxes have YOU had delivered to your home? No longer using toilet paper? FemCare products? Not interested in printing anything out on your printer? There are products that you have NO IDEA are available to YOU because I waited so long …. And one more thing, those cardboard boxes could have been returned to paper manufactures, they can recycle those boxes back into new boxes..

  3. mnon on January 10th, 2022 12:34 am

    Only thing I can think of is “how much is my power bill going up.” Seems everything this new buyout does increases our power bill within 2-3 months. Let me think, mulch, wild flowers.. probably be a $3 increase by April.

  4. Paul on January 9th, 2022 4:25 pm

    Beautiful forest. Really. That areas dirt is so poor the pines took forever to grow. And bring in something innovative then the usually land destroying oil spilling Fox News morons are concerned about the trees and wildlife. Don’t worry there just trying to get a little head start for when we do use up all the fossil fuels your great grandkids won’t have to go back to candles and horses Now fire back at me

  5. kfl on January 9th, 2022 1:16 pm

    Trash to Grass and Honey bee’s and wildflowers… so far so good FPL!

  6. sam on January 9th, 2022 12:31 pm

    there is always good and bad when something new is tried. if it keeps rates lower i guess it is good. i don’t like cutting down trees even is it a pine.

  7. Well on January 9th, 2022 12:23 pm

    Pretty slick.
    After you clear cut about 400 acres.

  8. Concerned on January 9th, 2022 11:37 am

    What a nice story to hear that a little mulch is being made to fertilize wildflowers around this solar energy farm. How much wildlife was displaced and many hundred acres of forest or potential farmland were destroyed? We have slept through the establishment of these solar farms quietly like good sheep being lead by rings in our noses. The fact is that all of these “renewable energy” assets (solar, wind, battery) are produced using non renewable resources. How much plastic and poly resins, steel, glass and concrete are used to produce these energy forms or what energy does it take to produce these? I’ll bet you’ve never thought of the amount of rare earth metals that are required to be mined for solar panels alone? Vast areas of our earth are being strip mined up to 2000% more just for this. And not in the USA with Union labor or worker protections either. We bought into the KoolAid and will surely pay for it. Remind yourselves of this as you drive by or fly over these gross eyesores we have in Florida. How nice they will have some wildflowers growing there. Let’s wake up and get off this train!

  9. Russell on January 9th, 2022 11:25 am

    Solar should be on rooftops like the gentleman said.

  10. Citizen on January 9th, 2022 10:58 am

    Everyone is going to need solar energy, businesses and government entities included, not just at the homeowner level. This is a great enterprise, and I’m glad to hear of the mulch creation as well. Awesome!

  11. cb on January 9th, 2022 10:56 am

    It’s not a nuclear power plant.

  12. Bewildered on January 9th, 2022 10:34 am

    $$$ Talk. Power bills are going up, so they have to sweet talk the public how they are saving them money.

  13. Anne on January 9th, 2022 10:21 am

    Amazing how FPL can continue to SAVE $$$$$$ yet our bills will Keep Going UP.
    Gotta have electricity though.
    Hope the panels work good on cloudy days so folks can plug in their electric cars.

  14. CW on January 9th, 2022 9:44 am

    Solar panels need to be on rooftops, not on land that could be forested. They could even use them to create shade over hot parking lots. I can’t imagine all of the herbicides that’ll constantly be dumped around those things to control the grass and weeds.

  15. Randon on January 9th, 2022 4:37 am

    Great!! That makes up for the 100+ acres of beautiful forest they just stripped, piled, and burned right down the road, right? We didn’t want them in out backyard, we don’t need them in our backyard. I’m all for solar but at the home owners level, not the corporate profiting level.

  16. Chelleepea on January 9th, 2022 2:40 am