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Clean Power NREL's RE Atlas gives free online maps of renewable energy

Published on January 7th, 2012 | by Tina Casey

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Riches of Renewable Energy in U.S. Revealed by Free Online Atlas

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January 7th, 2012 by
 
NREL's RE Atlas gives free online maps of renewable energyA free online atlas of renewable energy resources in the U.S.A. is now available courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Though designed for policymakers and planners, the new “RE Atlas” is a user-friendly interface that provides anyone who can use a computer with a vivid picture of the vast potential this country has for safe, low risk forms of energy including solar, wind and geothermal.

Low Risk Renewable Energy vs. Earthquakes

In a somewhat ironic bit of timing, NREL officially unveiled the new RE Atlas last week, shortly after Ohio Governor John Kasich put an emergency hold on gas wells around Youngstown, Ohio. The area has been rattled by minor quakes for months, and a major one that hit on New Year’s Eve. Seismologists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory were called in to assess the situation and according to Columbia blogger Kim Martineau, the team concluded that the quakes “are likely linked to a disposal well for injecting wastewater used in the hydraulic fracturing process.” The earthquakes are just the latest indication of the risk potential involved in gas fracking.

An Atlas of Safer Energy

Check into the RE Atlas, at maps.nrel.gov/re_atlas,and you’ll notice that along with a list of renewable energy resources the atlas also includes a layover for EPA contaminated lands, including abandoned mines, brownfields, Superfund sites and other classified sites. That’s of note because part of the Obama Administration’s energy policy involves reclaiming derelict sites for alternative energy production under an initiative called Re-Powering American’s Land, which also aims at creating new green jobs in underserved communities.  According to a recent assessment, there are about 14 million acres of land in derelict sites that could be exploited for

solar energy and wind farms. It’s also worth noting that the Nature Conservancy has done its own survey of pre-developed land that could be used for wind farms, as an alternative to encroaching on sensitive wildlife habitats.

Alternative Energy vs. the Keystone XL Pipeline

Speaking of high-risk forms of energy, the release of the RE Atlas happens to fall within the tight deadline proscribed by House Republicans for a decision on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, and it certainly doesn’t make the case for approval look any brighter. The pipeline will cut across an important aquifer in the midwest and its owner, TransCanada, apparently has a poor record when it comes to pipeline safety according to one whistleblower. In any case, the pipeline is primarily meant to serve the export market, so its impact on the price and availability of domestic petroleum products will be practically nil. In contrast, the new RE Atlas provides stakeholders with graphic, easily accessible evidence of a cleaner, safer alternative energy paradigm right at our fingertips.

Image: Solar panels. Some rights reserved by russf.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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