Re-Powering Brownfields as Brightfields with Renewable Solar Energy
EPA's New Site Screening and Decision Support Tool Aims to Heat up Solar as a Brownfield Reuse Option
Through its RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative, the U.S. EPA encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites. Over the past several years, the Initiative has identified thousands of current and former brownfields and other sites around the country that meet basic criteria for solar energy development at all levels, from off-grid single facility installations to utility-scale projects.
As of mid-2015, approximately 130 Brightfields solar installations have been developed around the country. And, this is just scratching the surface of available Brightfields sites. Over 80,000 potential solar sites are listed in the RE-Powering Initiative database.
Why place solar on brownfields? As EPA’s research shows, Brightfields development is a chance for communities and economic development agencies throughout the U.S. to productively utilize brownfield sites that are not amenable to traditional commercial or residential uses. Brownfields as a rule are well-suited for renewable energy development. As former industrial and commercial properties, they tend to be in areas with ready access to existing infrastructure such as electric transmission lines and substations. Photovoltaic (PV) solar installations in particular are well-suited for landfills and other properties where it is not feasible to dig a foundation.
And Brightfields projects bring a range of other benefits to their communities. They can enhance the local tax base, create employment, and eliminate blight. EPA indicates that communities have saved millions of dollars in energy costs, created construction jobs, and received new property tax revenue as a result of reusing brownfields for renewable energy. And PV solar panels have a lifecycle of many years or decades, ensuring a long-term and reliable end use for otherwise unutilized land.
Recently EPA's RE-Powering America's Land Initiative announced the release of an “electronic decision tree” tool to help communities, local governments, site owners and other stakeholders explore the feasibility of solar or wind energy on formerly contaminated properties and underutilized sites. The downloadable application guides users through a series of Yes/No questions supplemented by tips and links to other relevant tools and information.
The decision tree tool is designed for experts and non-experts alike to screen potentially contaminated or underutilized sites and landfills for their amenability to solar or wind projects. Experienced professionals will be able to quickly navigate through the decision tree, but more information is there for the less experienced user to build their level of knowledge.
While the tool is not intended to substitute for the kind of detailed site-specific assessment required to greenlight renewable energy projects, it can be a great place to start.
To discover brownfields with potential as Brightfields download the decision tree tool, go to http://www2.epa.gov/re-powering/re-powerings-electronic-decision-tree
For questions about the decision tree tool or the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative contact Adam Klinger at email@example.com.
To learn how to tag your property with solar development potential as a brightfield in the Marketplace Taxonomy.