Benefits of Solar on Brownfields

Ella Wynn

The Environmental Protection Agency designates brownfields as “a property with the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant” (EPA). Common examples of brownfields include capped landfills, industrial sites with historically poor waste management and manufacturing facilities with hazardous chemical waste. The nation’s history of heavy industry, involving oil refineries and manufacturing facilities, has resulted in numerous designated brownfields within certain regions.

Despite their polluted nature, brownfields make exceptional candidates for solar development. The EPA has recognized their unique value and have already deemed more than 80,000 brownfields suitable for renewable energy development (GTM). With approximately 15 million acres of contaminated sites across the country, there is a lot of potential for solar growth in these areas (GTM).

In regions with limited and highly-contested real estate, ground-mounted solar projects have to compete with residential, commercial and industrial development. Yet the contaminated state of brownfields precludes them from serving most conventional land uses. They are unviable for agriculture because the residual hazardous waste could easily filter into crops. Even after undergoing the clean-up process, brownfields are generally not slated for housing development because of the long term exposure risks (Rowan and Fridgen, 2017). Additionally, brownfields are oftentimes large, unshaded areas near transmission lines. These factors make solar the ideal solution to utilize the space for financial gain.In light of these advantages, local governments have identified brownfields to be an economic asset. Many have already set policies and incentives to encourage the development of ground-mounted solar projects in their states. The New York State Agency Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) has recently rolled out an additional solar financial incentive to support projects developed on brownfields. Rhode Island also announced that the state is setting aside money from the Renewable Energy Fund specifically for projects located on brownfield sites. These extra incentives make a very compelling financial argument for solar.

PowerFlex has had the opportunity to develop nearly 10 MW of solar projects on brownfield projects, and we are experienced in the additional environmental due diligence, permitting and engineering required in such cases. Knowing what to anticipate when applying for and securing the additional financial incentives that come with building on brownfields can help speed up the installation process. It is also important to know the ins and outs of managing specialized permitting, such as post-closure (following the closure of a waste management or manufacturing facility) permits issued by state agencies.If you are interested in reaping the benefits of solar developments on brownfields, PowerFlex can help you turn your property into a lucrative and energy-producing asset. We provide a tailored, complimentary technical and financial analysis based on your real estate portfolio, energy usage, and available state and utility incentives. PowerFlex is agnostic to project structuring and provides a turnkey solar solution for corporate clients. Please contact us here or call 888-225-0270.