Few places in the U.S. are as well suited to developing renewable energy as the contaminated sites known as “brownfields.” But as communities from Philadelphia to California are discovering, government support is critical to enable solar and wind entrepreneurs to make use of these abandoned lands.
Solar power is helping out the environment in more ways than one. In addition to producing green electricity, solar energy is helping to cure brownfields, or industrial or commercial properties that have been compromised by environmental contamination. The worst of these plots of tarnished land have been designated for special attention by the EPA as part of the
The New Jersey cities of Trenton, Jersey City, Newark, and Camden are set to receive a total of $2.3 million dollars from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help them assess and clean up contaminated and abandoned sites. The funding will be channeled through the EPA’s Brownfields Program. The clean up projects will help revitalize commercial and industrial properties by removing the toxic pollution that has hindered their redevelopment.
A brownfield site, or brownfield as it is commonly called, is a piece of land that was formerly used for industrial or commercial purposes, but is now abandoned or underused. Brownfield sites are perceived to be contaminated with low concentrations of hazardous waste, but have the potential to contain high concentrations of such waste. The pollutants are usually petroleum products often leaked from underground storage tanks or buried drums, but may include a number of toxic chemicals and organic compounds.
The Brownfields Program has been in existence since the EPA designated its first brownfield site in 1993 in Cuyahoga County in Ohio. Brownfields hold a special status because even though they are contaminated, they are not quite so bad to be included on the EPA’s National Priorities List, otherwise known as Superfund. The Brownfields Program does have a number of benefits including the following:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has selected $78.9 million in brownfields grants to communities in 40 states, four tribes, and one U.S. Territory. This funding will be used for the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of brownfields properties, including abandoned gas stations, old textile mills, closed smelters, and other abandoned industrial and commercial properties.
The brownfields program encourages redevelopment of America’s estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites. As of March 2010, EPA’s brownfields assistance has leveraged more than $14 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding.
In total, the EPA is selecting 304 grants through the Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants programs:
The U.S. government has identified 4,100 contaminated industrial sites, covering more than 5 million acres, suitable for building wind, solar, and geothermal power installations.
With concern about renewable energy projects being built on pristine lands, the construction of wind and solar arrays on idle industrial “brownfields” could be an ideal solution, according to federal officials.
The Daily Climate reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Renewable Energy Lab will begin conducting detailed studies of some sites this month and will hold five workshops with state and local leaders, renewable energy developers, and conservation groups to discuss constructing alternative energy installations on brownfields.