renewable energy

HUMAN POWER…..ACTIVATED!

Have you ever walked across a carpet with your socks on and get shocked when you touched a door knob?  What about rubbing a balloon on your head and then having your hair rise? 

This is energy that we can generate through motion.  I took a 6th grade science class on a field trip to a global activism expo at the University of Illinois in Chicago in late April.  We learned all about motion energy and how green it can be.  It is a renewable type of energy and we could use it to power things up like TV’s, turntables, and lights in a room.  Instead of using gas, batteries, or oil to power those things up, we can use our bodies through motion.  In fact, we even saw demonstrations of how water can get pumped out of a plumbing system using motion energy, a bike and a generator.

Our field trip taught us how using renewable energies like solar, wind and motion can reduce our carbon footprint, be more environmentally friendly, and still harness enough energy for us to use on the things we use every day. 

Some of the class thought it was neat and made them feel kind of like they had super hero powers because they could also generate energy with their own movements.  Very awesome!

If you’re curious about renewable energy, go to http://epa.gov/climatechange/kids/solutions/technologies/index.html

Yvonne Gonzalez is an intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She recently received a dual graduate degree from DePaul University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Power to the People

Over the last few weeks, I have toured sites that hold an exciting potential for the next chapter in America’s energy future. Most people don’t look at landfills, contaminated industrial sites, or parking lots with a twinkle in their eyes, but I do. I hope you will too.

Solar Panels

Solar PV array at Brockton Brightfields installation in MA

As a solar person, I am always on the look-out for prime sites for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. In addition to solar resources, I look for a few simple things: clear southern exposures, flat or gentle grades, and close proximity to power lines. In general, I am looking for space, whether it is an open rooftop or an abandoned rail yard.

With over 13,000 sites and nearly 22 million acres of EPA-tracked potentially contaminated and underutilized properties nationwide, I see an untapped potential for large-scale deployment of renewable energy. That acreage receives a whole lot of sunshine and, in some cases, gets its fair share of wind. For communities interested in renewables, these sites offer a unique value proposition.

In many cases, these properties have blighted the community for years. From the perspective of a renewable energy developer, these sites are attractive due to their proximity to existing distribution or transmission lines, favorable zoning, and potentially lower land costs.  With this redevelopment approach, I see the potential to turn these liabilities into community assets by remediating the site and deploying pollution-free energy facilities.

Wind-Turbines-at-Steel-Winds-facility-in-NY

Wind-Turbines-at-Steel-Winds-facility-in-NY

Partnering with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and remediation experts here at EPA, the RE-Powering team converted our collective knowledge into new tools to guide state and local governments, site owners, clean-up project managers, and other stakeholders through a process for screening potentially contaminated sites and landfills for their suitability for future redevelopment with PV or wind energy.

This knowledge is now bundled in a simple decision-tree format to enable communities to screen sites without needing renewable energy expertise. We built the screening tools to provide quick feedback on whether or not a site could be viable based on technical or economic criteria. The tools provide a thorough check than my quick check during a site walk. Throughout the process, we provide context for each of the criteria and point to additional tools and references to work through the evaluation process. Our goal is to empower communities to bring their vision of a solar array or wind farm one step closer.

While site walks at brownfields and landfills don’t always offer inspiring views, they are the next step in an inspired approach to expanding our American-made, renewable energy generation. Screen your sites. Take a walk. RE-Power America’s Land.

About the author: Katie Brown is the AAAS Science & Technology fellow hosted in the Center for Program Analysis in the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. Prior to her fellowship, Katie worked in the solar industry in product development and at NREL on device design and government-industry partnerships.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: A Sustainable Super Bowl XLVI

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection.Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Marguerite Huber

On Sunday, February 5th 2012, thousands of people descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana to watch Super Bowl XLVI. While millions watched the game, they were probably unaware of the sustainability actions that were put forth at Lucas Oil Stadium.

I spoke with NFL Environmental Program Director, Jack Groh, about what his job entails. He describes his job as incorporating environmental principles into sporting events, all the while making good business decisions. In the 18 years Groh has been with the NFL, they have kept expanding their sustainability actions, moving from just solid waste recycling to green energy seven years ago.

This year the NFL will be offsetting the energy for the stadium with Renewable Energy Credits for an entire month! “We are renting the stadium for a month, so we believe we are responsible for our tenancy,” states Groh. In addition to the stadium, the program will be offsetting the city’s convention center and four major hotels. That’s an estimated total offset of 15,000 megawatt hours.

“Every year there is something new and exciting. We want to push the envelope and look for new impacts and strategies,” Groh proclaims. For example, diverting waste from landfills by promoting recycling and reuse, collecting extra prepared food for donations for soup kitchens, donating building and decorative materials to local organizations, and reducing the impact of greenhouse gases from Super Bowl activities. My favorite is the 2,012 Trees program, which will help plant 2,012 trees in Indianapolis to help offset environmental impacts.

What I found most interesting from talking with Mr. Groh was that he does not spend a lot of time with publicity, which is why many of you may have never heard of this program. “People are amazed that we have been doing this for two decades. We don’t do it to create an image or green presence in the media, but do it because it’s the right thing and a really smart way to run things. Our goal is make the Super Bowl as green as we possibly can make it.” Groh admitted.

Sustainability and sports is a growing trend, even if it is not seen on the surface of our favorite sporting events. I am excited to see how professional leagues will mold the core of their existence into a new form of competition that is not just for teams, but for the professional leagues themselves. With sustainability, everybody wins!

About the author: EPA intern Marguerite Huber is working on Masters in Public Affairs from Indiana University, concentrating in sustainable development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Re-energizing Communities through RE-Powering

By Katie Brown

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Growing up in the 80’s, I learned a dance that went with those words. There will be no demonstrations, but think of the hustle: Do the recycle. Do-do-do…da…do-do-do-do.

The simple mantra has served as a guiding principle that has led me to some surprising ventures, including this latest jump into contaminated lands. The RE-Powering America’s Land program promotes the redevelopment of potentially contaminated sites with renewable energy. This is where reduce, reuse and recycle meet, and then some.

Reduce through Reuse: By repurposing contaminated land for clean energy production, we are able to preserve valuable open space. With the distributed vs. central generation debate in the background, I find inspiration in this straight-forward development approach. Put pollution-free, renewable generation capacity on damaged land. Make use of the good stuff: hike the woods, prairies, and deserts; farm the arable land; play in the parks.

Reuse to Recycle: Many contaminated sites are located in urban areas, generally in economically depressed neighborhoods. By installing renewable energy on this land, we are not only reusing the land but also creating an asset that will serve the community for decades to come.

Building on existing success stories, the RE-Powering America’s Land program is launching feasibility studies at 26 sites throughout the country. The sites have been selected based on proposals from community stakeholders, with backing from the utilities.

Partnering with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the RE-Power studies will provide a detailed assessment of the potential for renewable energy development at each site. The sites range from landfills to mines to former manufacturing plants. In the future, many will provide green power from solar, wind, biopower, or geothermal sources. This effort represents a shift in community thinking about contaminated land use and sustainability.

RE-Powering gives the communities the technical assistance to evaluate the potential for a site. From there, the communities will engage with developers and financiers to move forward with promising projects. It further empowers communities to set the course for redevelopment and energize their homes and businesses in a new way.

Reduce the need to convert open space for industrial needs. Reuse previously-developed land for a green-energy future. Recycle blight into community assets. Now that’s a dance I can do.

About the author: Katie Brown is the AAAS S&T fellow hosted in the Center for Program Analysis in the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. Prior to her fellowship, Katie worked in the solar industry in product development and at NREL on device design and government-industry partnerships.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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High School Students Inspired by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. During Earth Day Visit to EPA

“Can I get my picture taken with him? Can we please go on a tour to see the solar panels? What was your college major? Do you know much about nanotechnology?” were just a few of the questions posed by high school students who visited EPA’s Research Triangle Park campus on Earth Day 2010 to hear environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speak.

Outdoors, under clear blue skies, the 40 students from Hillside, Jordan, Northern, and Southern High Schools in Durham focused their full attention on Mr. Kennedy as he passionately shared multiple stories and statistics to demonstrate that protecting our nation’s environmental resources makes economic sense. The hidden costs of getting our energy from non-renewable resources and accounting for the true costs of fossil fuels, as well as developing the infrastructure for renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal power, were themes that particularly inspired the students.

No texting, no talking. All eyes were glued on Kennedy, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, throughout his 1-hour talk as he offered a range of topics to pique their teenage minds as they consider subjects to explore in college and as careers: environmental science, engineering, law, politics, environmental justice, math, and history to name a few. In addition to Kennedy’s environmental anecdotes, he also shared personal stories including his trips to the White House as a child to visit his uncle, John F. Kennedy, in the Oval Office. I was in awe.

EarthDay2010-Robert-F-KenneAs Kennedy’s inspirational talk concluded, we did have many questions answered. YES, you can get your picture taken with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and YES you can take a tour to learn about our newly-installed solar panels. Students from Northern High School went on an impromptu tour of our environmentally-friendly building, learned about EPA’s air pollution research, and talked to several employees about their educations and their jobs. As for the nanotechnology question posed to me by a high school junior, I was “saved” at the last minute in the EPA Café line by running into a co-worker who does research in the area.

You can learn more about Kennedy’s Earth Day talk at EPA at http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices/14335415-1.html or http://www.dpsnc.net/news/frontpage-news/a-kennedy-kind-of-earth-day/?searchterm=kennedy%20epa. To read about the EPA Administrator’s visit to Southern High School last fall, go to http://www.dpsnc.net/news/community-news/president2019s-cabinet-member-chooses-southern-to-speak/?searchterm=EPA%20administrator.

About the Author: Kelly Leovic manages EPA’s Environmental and Community Outreach Program in Research Triangle Park and has worked for the EPA as an environmental engineer since 1987, though this is the first time she had the opportunity to hear a Kennedy speak in person. She has three children and loves to inspire them, and anyone else who will listen, to protect our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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