By Marc Thomas
I’ve always loved maps because each map tells a story. In my living room is a framed map from 1860 of where I live: Washington, DC. I often stop and stare at it, and I usually notice something new. I also think about what life must have been like in our nation’s capital during the Civil War.
I love that I get to explore lots of maps as part of my work with the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative. For example, there’s the RE-Powering Mapper that uses Google Earth to screen sites all over the country for contaminated lands, landfills, and mines that have renewable energy potential. We’ve also developed a series of static maps that illustrate the significant opportunities that exist nationwide for siting solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass projects on these properties.
We just updated our project tracking matrix, which is a list of 85 completed renewable energy projects on contaminated lands. As part of this update, we created a new map of these sites. Projects have been developed in 27 states, from Hawaii to Georgia to Vermont. Examples range from small solar arrays that power cleanup activities onsite, such as the 10 kW project at the Refuse Hideway Landfill in Wisconsin, to huge, utility-scale projects like the 237 MW wind project on the Dave Johnston Mine Reclamation site in Wyoming.
Looking at this new map, I was quickly struck by one yellow dot in western North Carolina, where I’m from. I learned that a 555-kW solar PV project had been built on a former landfill not ten minutes down I-40 from the house where I grew up. This project provides power to the homes of my friends and neighbors and is also a productive use of a closed landfill. Seeing that dot on the map reminded me that these projects offer real benefits to the communities surrounding them: each one has its own story. To learn more about this and other completed projects, see our updated project tracking matrix and map.
About the author: Marc Thomas has served as a program analyst with EPA for over 8 years. For most of his career, he has identified ways to encourage the cleanup and revitalization of contaminated sites. Since January 2013, he has worked with the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative.