EPA screens thousands of contaminated sites for renewable energy potential


The EPA on Monday has increased the number of contaminated sites its screening for potential renewable energy use from 24,000 to 66,000.

The EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative, launched in 2008, encourages development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land, landfills and mine sites when supported by local communities.

"We see responsible renewable energy development on contaminated lands and landfills as a win-win-win for the nation, local communities and the environment," said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "In President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the administration set a goal to double renewable electricity generation by 2020. By identifying the renewable energy potential of contaminated sites across the country, these screening results are a good step toward meeting national renewable energy goals in order to address climate change, while also cleaning up and revitalizing contaminated lands in our communities."

Pulling from EPA databases of potentially and formerly contaminated lands, as well as partnering with state agencies from California, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Virginia, the RE-Powering Initiative expanded the number of sites from 24,000 to more than 66,000.

Working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), RE-Powering developed screening criteria for solar, wind, biomass and geothermal potential at various levels of development. The sites are tracked by EPA and selected state agencies.

For solar energy alone, EPA identified more than 10,000 contaminated sites with the potential to install a 300 kW solar array or greater. Based on mapped acreage, these sites could cumulatively host solar energy systems that capture greater than 30 times more solar energy than all renewable energy systems currently operating in the United States.

The RE-Powering Initiative supports the transformation of liabilities into assets for surrounding communities. Since RE-Powering’s inception, more than 70 renewable energy projects have been installed on contaminated lands or landfills.

"These early projects represent more than 200 MW of installed capacity, which could power approximately 30,000 homes, and provide a foundation for future development as demonstrations of the latest technologies in both renewable energy and remediation design," the EPA said.