There’s energy in them Brownfields!

These days windmills are popping up all over. There are windmills on the farm, there are windmills out at sea. There are even turbines beneath our oceans,  and under our rivers .

What’s particularly exciting to us at WorkBench, is the new focus at EPA, The Energy Department and the private sector in developing indutrial brown-fields into sites for renewable energy. Since the 90′s there has been a focus on light brownfield remediation- and some legislation to hold harmless those agencies and developers with the interest to redevelop an industrial site. This efforts has had mixed results, and many old industrial sites in the rust belt remain underutilized. Also, as traffic has shifted, many sites along the old US route system have alse fallen into disrepair, or been abandoned.

What to do with a medium to large tract of land that has fallen out of favor, and  nearly forgotten?

Policy makers are now clearing the way for a more quick return to productivity for many of these old abandoned industrial sites and waysides.

Bloomberg News has picked up on the story, reporting that there is some private sector interest in the creation and maintenance of a database – for the  identification of the best sites for wind and solar:

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.

The EPA has gone as far as create a solar decision tree as well as a wind counterpart to assist agencies and firms in siting renewable energy projects

According to Stanford University’s center for energy policy and finance, solar projects now offer a solid return:

“After tax, you’re looking at returns in the 10 percent to 15 percent range” for solar projects, said Dan Reicher, executive director of Stanford University’s center for energy policy and finance in California. “The beauty of solar is once you make the capital investment, you’ve got free fuel and very low operating costs.”

The EPA and NREL (the National Renewable Energy Lab) are set this month to announce a formal partnership to conduct detailed feasibility studies at 13 contaminated sites, Swingle said. The goal, she said, is to determine what would be required, both technologically and economically, to clean and reuse the sites to house renewable energy projects.

The EPA has also identified 15 abandoned hardrock mines, located mostly in the West, where it has rated wind-energy potential to be excellent, outstanding or superb, said Shahid Mahmud, co-chairman of the federal agency’s national mining team. The next step is to study the contamination levels at each site, with the idea of promoting them to the energy industry as suitable for reuse.

“We want to push these contaminated sites and really encourage these things to happen,” he said, “because the sooner we can get it done the better off we are from the environmental and climate change perspective.”

The EPA in November will kick off a series of five national workshops to allow state and local leaders, renewable energy developers and conservation groups to brainstorm.

“The idea is to get them all together and say, ‘OK we have all this great (disturbed) land, we don’t want to see development of greenfield sites, what do we do next?’