Good-for-Nothing Polluted Land May Be Good for Renewables

Photographer: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

Once so risky that only government backing could draw private capital, solar projects now are making returns of about 15 percent, according to Stanford University’s center for energy policy and finance. Close

Once so risky that only government backing could draw private capital, solar projects... Read More

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Photographer: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

Once so risky that only government backing could draw private capital, solar projects now are making returns of about 15 percent, according to Stanford University’s center for energy policy and finance.

The federal government and the private sector have launched new efforts to determine ideal sites for solar and wind energy projects in the United States.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department posted new tools April 25 for evaluating commercial and industrial rooftops, parking lots, and contaminated lands for solar and wind energy potential.

The tools, which include solar and wind "decision trees," will help state and local governments and landowners to identify the best sites without technical expertise, according to EPA.

EPA estimates there are 490,000 contaminated sites covering almost 15 million acres across the United States, in both urban and rural areas. Reusing this land for renewable energy projects could provide economic and other benefits.

"Tapping sun and wind power at brownfield sites, rooftops, parking lots, and abandoned land could provide untapped gigawatts of clean energy," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a statement.

The tools, as well as a related podcast by Mathy Stanislaus, EPA's assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response, are available at http://www.epa.gov/renewableenergyland.

Private Sector

The private sector is also working on tools to accelerate renewable energy projects.

The satellite imagery company GeoEye of Herndon, Va., said April 19 that it has partnered with Geostellar, a Martinsburg, W.Va., geospatial company, to map the solar potential of every residential and commercial property in the country.

The project aims to help millions of property owners determine how quickly they can recoup their investment in a solar project.

Geostellar's technology looks at such things as weather patterns, shadows, roof slope, closest transmission lines, property values, land use, electricity rates, solar subsidies, and solar hazards to determine an approximate time line for return on investment in a solar project.

The company already has solar maps for Washington, D.C., Boston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and portions of New Jersey, where government agencies have provided free access to aerial imagery.

Using GeoEye's vast cache of imagery, surface models, and other mapping data will enable the two companies to expand this coverage to the entire country, they said.

Avery Fellow covers sustainability for Bloomberg BNA and the World Climate Change Report blog.

Visit www.bloomberg.com/sustainability for the latest from Bloomberg News about energy, natural resources and global business.

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