Initiative to Site Renewable Energy on Brownfields Launches

We’ve long advocated for siting large solar, wind and other renewable energy projects on brownfields rather than greenfields (undeveloped land), and now the EPA and DOE’s  National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) are evaluating the feasibility of doing so on 26 sites across the country. 

As part of RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative, they are looking into siting renewable energy production on Superfund, brownfields, and former landfill or mining sites.

The land is cheap, often abandoned, close to such necessary infrastructure as power lines and roads, is often properly zoned, and no other developers are rushing to erect anything on them.

Learn how they evaluate sites.

There are potentially thousands of sites.

"The RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative is not just about using these sites for energy production but using these sites to re-energize communities," says Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "These studies are the first step to transforming these sites from eyesores today to community assets tomorrow." 

Analysis includes the most appropriate renewable energy technology for each site, the optimal location for its placement, potential energy generating capacity and return on the investment. 

More than 20 renewable energy projects are already built on contaminated sites and more are underway. The largest urban solar plant in the US is in Chicago, the 10 megawatt (MW) Exelon City Solar installation. And a 6 MW solar system at the Aerojet General Corporation Superfund site (Sacramento County, California) powers the site’s cleanup. 

Some of the sites under consideration for new projects have completed cleanup, while others are in various stages of assessment or cleanup.

Superfund sites are the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites identified by EPA for cleanup. Brownfields are properties at which expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence of contaminants. Contaminated lands can be ideal locations for developing renewable energy projects because they often can leverage existing utility infrastructure, and this redevelopment may be allowed under existing zoning.

In 2008, EPA launched the RE-Powering America’s Land initiative to encourage development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land and mining sites. EPA partnered with NREL to do an initial screening to determine sites that may be used for renewable energy projects.

More information on the RE-Powering America’s Land initiative:

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