NOVEMBER 2008

Contaminated sites examined for renewable energy locations

The EPA used Google Earth to find contaminated sites like this that could be used as future locations for renewable energy projects.

In a new approach to return land to productive use, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified thousands of properties that could potentially host solar, wind or biomass energy production facilities. The EPA pinpointed these energy assets using Google Earth and has listed each property’s attributes for energy redevelopment.

“EPA is putting renewable energy production on the virtual map,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “Our new interactive website encourages states and energy companies to put previously contaminated properties back to work.”

The EPA worked with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to collect information on renewable energy availability across the country, and merged it with EPA data from several land cleanup programs. In addition, they applied screening criteria including distance from power lines, closeness to roads and site acreage to identify sites that are good candidates for hosting renewable energy production facilities.

In producing the interactive state maps, the EPA used information on properties from several land cleanup programs, including abandoned mine lands and lands under their Superfund, Brownfields, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act programs.

These properties have varying levels of historic contamination. Contamination at some of these properties has already been addressed, while the level of contamination at others is still to be fully investigated. It is likely that some of the brownfields properties have little historic contamination. The appropriate steps to address the contamination at these properties will vary from site to site, depending on the nature of the contamination and intended reuse.

The properties offer a number of attractive features for the development of renewable energy facilities including:

  • Appropriate location, useful infrastructure, such as transmission lines and roads, and appropriate zoning for development;
  • Landowners and local communities that are often eager to see new economic uses for these properties;
  • An alternative to using green spaces, which may help reduce community concerns about the effects of a planned renewable energy facility.

More information may be found at www.epa.gov/renewableenergyland.