The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed and launched new tools designed to test underutilized sites and contaminated land for their wind and solar energy potential.
The EPA estimates that, nationwide, there are approximately 490,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties. According to the EPA and the DOE, the new tools give local communities and landowners ways to evaluate these 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.
"Opportunities to install renewable energy systems on vacant properties can be found in every community,’ says Jared Blumenfeld, the 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 the development of these new tools. Using the decision trees, state and local governments, site owners and community members can help identify the most desirable sites for wind and solar 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 agencies add.
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.