EPA's Google Earth Map of Potential Renewable Energy SitesFrom the Cool Maps Department. And just a really cool idea that I just ran across at The Apollo Daily Digest. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging the development of renewable energy by identifying currently and formerly contaminated lands and mining sites that present opportunities for renewable energy development in all 50 states. It’s the ultimate lemons to lemonade plan: taking the country’s most wasted,ugly and contaminated sites and building facilities that will bring jobs to local communities and boost a more stable, prosperous clean energy economy.

(If you don’t already have it, you must install Google Earth on your computer first to access the map, then follow the links here.)

  • Ft. Carson, Colorado: Solar facility at a former landfillEstimating a 30 percent increase in electricity demand by 2030, they’re looking at six types of large-scale renewable energy sources:

    • Community wind energy – Wind energy potential with wind power class of 3 or greater.
    • Utility scale wind energy – Wind energy potential with wind power class of 4 or greater.
    • Utility scale Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) – Direct normal resource availability of 6 kWh/m2/day or greater.
    • Utility scale Photovoltaic solar energy (PV) – Direct normal resource availability of 5 kWh/m2/day or greater.
    • Biopower facility – Cumulative biomass resources of 140,000 metric tons/year or greater within 50 miles.
    • Biorefinery facility – Cumulative crop residues of 333,000 metric tons/year or greater within 50 miles.

    The EPA estimates 480,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties across the United States that would be suitable for clean energy facilities. This estimate includes Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Brownfields, and abandoned mine lands.

    There are really good reasons why these sites are ideal for new, prosperous clean energy facilities:

    • Generally they have existing transmission capacity, infrastructure in place and adequate zoning;
    • Using these “unsavory” sites takes the stress off undeveloped lands for construction of new energy facilities, preserving the land carbon sink elsewhere;
    • Renewable energy development provides an economically viable reuse for sites with significant cleanup costs or low real estate development demand; and
    • New industry on these sites provides job opportunities in urban and rural communities.
    • Further, these projects advance cleaner and more cost effective energy technologies, and reduce the environmental impacts of energy systems (e.g., reduce greenhouse gas emissions). More on all the reasons why here.

    The EPA sees potential beneficial partnerships with renewable energy suppliers, utilities, developers, investors, public and private land owners, the mining industry, states, tribal governments and communities, cities and environmental organizations and others, to provide increasingly cheap clean power and local jobs.

    The photo is a massive solar power facility built on a former landfill site in Ft. Carson, Colorado.