Simple worth: Growing solar on brownfields and landfills

By Contributing Author July 14, 2023

The use of brownfields for solar improvement is anticipated to have a big impression on our nation’s transition towards renewable energy.

In latest years, there was a notable rise in renewable energy initiatives being established on land that was beforehand underused or contaminated. Several elements have contributed to this development, akin to favorable insurance policies, elevated demand for clear energy in city areas, new incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act and a greater comprehension of the potential of this mannequin.

In quick, the mix of solar energy and brownfields is a pure match that may present vital advantages to builders, communities and native governments.

Underused however considerable land

Brownfields consult with land that has been beforehand developed, generally present in city areas, and infrequently owned by state and metropolis governments. Examples embody outdated coal mines, landfills, closed industrial vegetation, and superfund websites. Due to contamination or bodily instability, these websites are typically thought to be unusable for farming or industrial or residential houses or buildings. When transformed into solar energy websites, they’re sometimes called “brightfields.” This sort of solar venture pays annual lease lease to the land, which creates an alternate income stream to the landowner for this tough land altering it from a legal responsibility into an asset.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Renewable Energy Lab pre-screened virtually 200,000 brownfield websites and carried out site-specific analyses of potential landfill solar farms. Estimates are that 13,000 websites of the over 450,000 brownfields within the U.S. may very well be repurposed. These numbers characterize an thrilling alternative.

Unique benefits of brownfield improvement

Solar builders can profit drastically from pursuing solar arrays on brownfields and landfills. These websites sometimes have good solar publicity and pre-existing infrastructure akin to street entry, transmission corridors, and cargo demand. Compared to growing on greenfields, which might contain neighborhood opposition, brownfields provide benefits on account of their restricted redevelopment potential. Additionally, greenfields are ceaselessly reserved for various improvement, akin to mixed-use flats or housing. The abundance of brownfields is especially helpful for growing websites in or close to city areas the place land is scarce and demand is excessive.

Tapping brownfield and landfill websites for solar could be a boon for native residents and companies. These websites are ceaselessly present in low-income and underserved communities which can be disproportionately impacted by local weather change. Constructing solar energy infrastructure on these unattractive websites can contribute to the revitalization of those communities by creating job alternatives and enhancing financial improvement. In addition, if municipalities and builders implement neighborhood solar fashions, native residents and companies can get pleasure from lowered electrical payments.

Local governments may also profit from solar improvement on brownfield and landfill websites. By deciding on websites the place there may be much less opposition from the neighborhood, municipalities can cut back prices and provide lower-cost leases to builders. For instance, Director of the Indianapolis’ Office of Sustainability Morgan Mickelson started seeking to landfill solar improvement to satisfy town’s renewables objectives in a means that introduced intersectional advantages of job creation and fewer reliance on coal. Mickelson mentioned that with landfills, “if you’re able to determine there’s no other better reuse for this land, it seems like a really smart investment for the community.” Furthermore, Solar initiatives are taxed, bringing income to the native authorities.

A proliferation of brightfields

Municipalities and builders are pursuing brownfield and landfill solar improvement in better numbers. In 2021 native governments within the U.S. introduced a complete of 207 MW of energy from 21 landfill solar initiatives, representing a 10-fold improve in energy capability in contrast with latest years.

Brightfield initiatives are cropping up in locations like Urbana, Illinois; Annapolis, Maryland; Edison, New Jersey; and Martha’s Vineyard. The State of Michigan is repurposing state properties and lands for renewables use, reworking two former mining properties into large-scale solar programs. Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township brokered an aggregation deal for a 24 MW landfill solar venture that can offset all of Pittsfield Township’s municipal electrical energy and allow Ann Arbor residents to subscribe and decrease their energy prices. Standard Solar has developed plenty of brightfields, together with an array on a landfill in Stafford, Connecticut and a 17-acre, 3.2 MW system on a brownfield in Wallingford, Vermont.

Brownfield initiatives have gotten more and more bold. In Columbus, Ohio, a 50 MW brightfield system is within the works whereas a 70 MW Houston solar farm is deliberate on a 240-acre landfill that can power 12,000 houses and embody an electrical automobile charging level, a bio-digester, and a neighborhood backyard.

Policies that mitigate obstacles to adoption

Supportive federal and state insurance policies are ushering within the development of brownfield solar improvement. However, constructing solar infrastructure on brownfields could be difficult on account of extra upfront prices and regulatory oversight from a number of companies. Specialized design and engineering are additionally required due to the distinctive nature of the land on which they’re located.

Recent laws has helped alleviate these problems. The Inflation Reduction Act introduced extra tax credit for constructing solar on landfills and different brownfields which can be sited in or benefiting low-income communities. Combining the IRA incentives would possibly imply {that a} brownfield web site receives anyplace between a 40-50% ITC.

Numerous states have applied supportive laws. New Jersey’s RPS affords a brownfield carve out whereas Maryland excludes massive brownfield solar initiatives from its net-metering cap. Massachusetts has extra subsidies for landfill renewables initiatives and affords technical help. As a consequence, the state possesses 52% % of utility-scale landfill solar initiatives in America.

Many areas have incentives and grants encouraging the cleanup and revitalization of deserted industrial land. Policies that encourage lease agreements with builders that web site on brownfields shorten allowing and zoning timeframes.

An answer that forwards America’s energy transition

The improvement of brightfields can play a vital function in attaining bold sustainability and environmental justice targets as a part of a complete nationwide clear energy and land-use technique. As The Rocky Mountain Institute put it, “the time is ripe to shift brightfields from an emerging practice to a mainstream opportunity.” It is evident that the solar trade, governments, and our communities can do a lot to make this a actuality.

Harry Benson is director of enterprise improvement at Standard Solar.

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Tags: brownfields, industrial and industrial, Community Solar, landfills, Standard Solar, utility-scale

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