In a twist, renewable energy projects can also provide the power needed to carry out clean-up of contaminated sites, to render them safe for alternative use. This is happening at several sites in Arizona, California, and Colorado.
This “brownfields to greensites” transformation holds major potential. Teaming up, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have mapped close to 4,100 contaminated sites in the United States—stretching over 5.5 million acres or about 0.2 percent of the country’s total territory—that could be utilized for wind, solar, or biomass development. Fully developed, they could eventually produce as much as 950,000 megawatts, or more than the country’s total electricity consumption. Additional such sites are being identified with geothermal potential.