EPA, DOE Partner to Develop Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Sites

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are evaluating the feasibility of developing renewable energy production on Superfund, brownfields, and former landfill or mining sites. As part of the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative, EPA is investing approximately $1 million for projects across the United States aiming to revitalize abandoned sites while protecting people’s health, the environment and providing economic benefits to local communities, including job creation.

“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,” said 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.”  

Projects will analyze the potential development of wind, solar, biomass, or geothermal at 26 sites. The analysis will determine the best renewable energy technology for the site, the optimal location for placement of the renewable energy technology on the site, potential energy generating capacity, the return on the investment, and the economic feasibility of the renewable energy projects. The 26 sites are located in Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, California, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington.

Renewable energy projects of this nature have been successful in the past. There have been over 20 renewable energy projects built on contaminated sites and more are currently underway. For example, in 2010, a six megawatt solar array was constructed on the Aerojet General Corporation Superfund site in Sacramento County, Calif. This solar farm is being used to power the cleanup. Also in 2010, the 10 megawatt Exelon City Solar installation, which is the largest urban solar power plant in the United States, was built on a brownfield site in Chicago.

Some of the sites under consideration for renewable energy projects have completed cleanup activities, while others may be in various stages of assessment or cleanup. Renewable energy projects on the sites will be designed to accommodate the site conditions.

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 September 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: http://www.epa.gov/renewableenergyland/

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