The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed and launched new tools designed to test underutilized sites and contaminated land for solar and wind energy potential. The tools give local communities and landowners ways to evaluate sites for renewable energy potential without the need for technical expertise.
The alternative energy ‘decision trees,’ leverage NREL’s knowledge of renewable energy technologies and EPA’s experience in returning contaminated lands to productive use.
The EPA estimates that nationwide there are approximately 490,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties.
“Opportunities to install renewable energy systems on vacant properties can be found in every community," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Tapping sun and wind power at brownfield sites, rooftops, parking lots, and abandoned land could provide untapped gigawatts of clean energy.”
The City of Richmond, Calif. is serving as a pilot community for development of the tools.
“Developing more local renewables is among my top priorities,” said Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. “We are extremely excited that the green, innovative City of Richmond, California is partnering with the EPA to help communities throughout the United States fully leverage technology to improve the environment, create local jobs and attract green companies.”
Positioning renewable energy on sites can increase economic value of the properties, provide a sustainable land reuse option, create local green jobs and provide clean energy for use on-site or for the utility grid. Using the decision trees, state and local governments, site owners and community members can help identify the most desirable sites for solar or wind installations from both a logistical and economic standpoint.
In addition to opportunities in cities, thousands of potentially contaminated acres in less populated areas across the country could be put to beneficial reuse with renewable energy.
The tools can be used to evaluate individual or multiple sites, such as brownfields, Superfund and other hazardous waste sites, abandoned parcels, landfills, parking lots, and commercial or industrial roofs, depending on the technology.