Brown 2 Green

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

I want to relate an exciting initiative upon which EPA Region 6 has embarked. We are working with state and federal agencies, land owners, renewable energy financiers and developers to advocate the use of previously contaminated sites as potential locations for renewable energy production. Together with the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources and the New Mexico Environment departments, Region 6 hosted the conference – Brown to Green: Make the Connection to Renewable Energy.

What might be a previously contaminated site? It could be a Brownfields designated property, a former military installation, a closed municipal landfill or a previously worked mining site. Really, almost any industrial facility could be prepared for a renewable energy use.

What are the merits of these types of sites? In most cases, the properties are less expensive to acquire than a greenfield development. The basic infrastructure – power grid access, water availability and highway arteries are nearby. In some cases, the costs associated in developing a greenfield site, including adding transmission lines could run into the millions of dollars. From an economic standpoint, reuse of a property means that it will be returned to local and state tax rolls for future assessments. And by using a previously developed property, acres of undisturbed lands will remain in their virgin state.

What type of renewable energy is applicable to these sites? As with most real estate developments, the answer to that question is “Location, Location, Location!” EPA and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have mapped the thousands of locations of closed facilities and cross-referenced them with solar and wind capabilities. In the near future, geothermal production capabilities will be added. To get an idea of the potential for properties in your state, and see the state financial incentives for renewable energy, check out: http://www.epa.gov/renewableenergyland/ for more information.

What has EPA done to facilitate this initiative? For the last 6 months, I have led a group working with the City of Houston to assess the regulatory, technical and economic considerations for the development of a 10 MWatt solar farm on a portion of the closed Holmes Road Landfill. With the abundance of sunshine in the Houston area year-round, it would be feasible to use about 100 acres of the 300 acres at the closed landfill for a solar farm. The City is examining its contract options and hopes to make a decision in early 2009 about using the site.