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EPA Offers Free Solar & Wind Tools to Tap into Gigawatts of Energy

Words by Andrew Burger
Data & Technology

There are more than 490,000 potentially contaminated properties covering some 15 million acres of land across the US. Aiming to help local communities and landowners make good use of them, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Renewable Energy (NREL) launched a set of tools that enable communities and landowners to evaluate contaminated and underutilized properties' renewable energy potential.

Eliminating the need for expensive technical expertise, the EPA/NREL's solar and wind decision trees bring together and combine expert renewable energy knowledge and decision-tree project evaluation processes decision trees by providing a decision-making blueprint for evaluating sites' renewable energy potential.
Available via free download, those interested can then put the decision-tree processes into action by making use of the Renewable Energy Interactive Mapping Tool (KMZ), "a Google Earth KMZ file that makes it possible to view EPA's information about siting renewable energy on contaminated land and mine sites, alongside other information contained in Google Earth," the partner agencies explain.

“Opportunities to install renewable energy systems on vacant properties can be found in every community," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Tapping sun and wind power at brownfield sites, rooftops, parking lots, and abandoned land could provide untapped gigawatts of clean energy.”

The tools are being pilot-tested in Richmond, California. “Developing more local renewables is among my top priorities,” commented Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. “We are extremely excited that the green, innovative City of Richmond, California is partnering with the EPA to help communities throughout the United States fully leverage technology to improve the environment, create local jobs and attract green companies.”

Substantial and various benefits can be realized by converting contaminated, underutilized public and private properties and spaces to renewable energy use, the EPA notes. Among them, the EPA mentions increasing the economic value of properties, providing a sustainable land reuse option, creating local green jobs and providing clean energy for use on-site or for the utility grid.

The EPA-NREL tools can be used to evaluate the solar and wind energy resource potential of multiple as well as individual sites. These can include brownfields, Superfund or other hazardous waste sites, abandoned parcels, landfills, parking lots and commercial or industrial rooftops.

Both the solar and wind decision tree tools and a podcast by the Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response on the EPA's website.

*Screenshot courtesy: EPA

Andrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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