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Tool to Determine Solar and Wind Energy Potential of Contaminated Sites

Companies have a new way to determine the feasibility of on-site renewable energy, after the EPA launched a tool to test vacant and contaminated land for solar and wind energy potential.

The alternative energy “decision trees,” developed by the EPA and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), give landowners, communities and elected officials ways to evaluate sites for renewable energy potential from a logistical and economic standpoint, without the need for technical expertise. 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.

The city of Richmond, Calif. is serving as a pilot community for development of the tools.

The EPA estimates that nationwide there are about 490,000 potentially contaminated properties totaling almost 15 million acres, in both cities and rural areas.

Positioning renewable energy on-site can increase economic value of the properties, provide a sustainable land reuse option and create green jobs, according to the EPA. Redeveloping contaminated sites also generates tax revenue for state and local governments, the California EPA reports.

Another tool to determine renewable energy potential, the In My Backyard (IMBY) tool, estimates solar photovoltaic array and wind turbine electricity production based on users’ specifications of system size, location and other variables. Developed by NREL, IMBY uses a Google Maps interface to allow users to choose a system location. It then draws data for that location from one of NREL’s renewable resource databases to estimate the site’s potential electricity production.

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