“Mixed use” development is an exciting term in city planning. Mention it to a planner and chances are their eyes will widen, they will stand up straighter, and they will start talking with you in an excited tone about all the benefits of mixing land uses. When it gets down to it, these places are just more efficient, more vibrant and create a real sense of place.
Now, mixing wind and solar projects with landfills and brownfields may not create a great “sense of place” or make the place “vibrant” with life, but it can surely achieve that first benefit — more efficiency.
Thus, some are looking into the potential of such “mixed use” projects. A UK engineering firm is looking into invest £100 million ($152.5 million) to install up to 80MW of wind energy capacity at UK landfill sites. And the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is targeting former brownfields for solar, wind and other renewable energy projects.
Wind Turbines in Landfills
Spanish engineering firm Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC) is the company that has decided to install 80MW or so of wind energy capacity on its landfill sites. It will do so through subsidiaries FCC Energy (FCCE) and Waste Recycling Group (WRG).
“WRG operates more than 100 landfill sites in England, Wales and Scotland, many of which are in relatively remote locations that are likely to prove ideal for the installation of wind turbines,” according to James Murray of Business Green.
The company said it is currently engaging in “a rigorous assessment of all technical and environmental aspects to ensure the final selected sites are the most appropriate for wind energy developments.”
The company already has 14 Spanish wind farms, numerous solar power plants and several waste-to-energy facilities in the UK. In total, these projects produce 533MW of renewable energy capacity.
Clean Energy on Brownfield Sites
The EPA is showing its commitment to using “contaminated”, or “brownfield”, sites in creative ways to help create jobs for local communities, help the environment, and protect people’s health by using such sites for solar and other clean energy projects now. Such sites include current and former industrial or commercial sites that may be contaminated with small amounts of hazardous waste or pollution. Of course, it is often not easy to use these sites for housing, retail, office, open space, or other purposes, so using them for clean energy is a productive, efficient use of these lands.
As Jeanne Roberts of Cooler Planet reports, “the land [on these sites] is cleaned up, or remediated, sufficiently to allow people to walk on it, or occasionally build factories on it, but building homes, offices, retail sites, sports fields or even camping and recreational areas is out of the question due to lingering contamination caused by such hazardous and regulated chemicals and substances as lead, asbestos, mercury, chromium, perchlorethylene, halogenated cleaning solvents, and some compounds used to make plastic.”
The EPA reports that 490,000 such sites, nearly 15 million acres (60,702 square kilometers) of land, exist across the country. 917,000 acres (3711 square kilometers) have now been “cleaned up” and agreements have been made with state, regional and Native American tribal agencies in order to reuse these lands for clean, renewable energy.
The EPA is partnering with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to make this happen. It is investing $650,000 (£426,225) in the project.
Each of these efforts marks a significant, efficient reuse or multi-purpose use of land for clean energy. It may not be as glamorous as other efforts, but it is a surely a super sustainable idea.
Image Credit: D’Arcy Norman via flickr under a CC license
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