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Inner-city brownfield sites use solar energy to finance their cleanup

© Chicago City Solar /
Northwestern University

At the National Brownfields Conference – an event that focuses on solutions for environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment of urban wastelands – Chicago, Philadelphia and New York presented their innovative projects regarding the exploitation of contaminated urban wastelands. All three shared one common aim: to use these sites for solar energy production in order to ultimately finance the sites’ cleanup operation.

The largest urban solar farm in the States can be found in Chicago. This City Solar project, built on a derelict brownfield site, was initiated by Exelon and Sunpower, two leading companies in solar energy, and is made up of 32,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels which provide around 10 MW.
Given the high cost of cleaning up contaminated grounds (up to $150,000 per acre, or $375,000 per hectare), the use of its surface area for producing energy has proven to be a good method of financing its eventual detoxification. This initiative has also attracted investors and created 200 local jobs.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, has received grants to increase production of renewable energy. Kristin Sullivan, of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office for Sustainability, states that multi-use infrastructure is one way in which this will be carried out. Solar panels will, for instance, be set up on the Water Department’s existing treatment equipment, generating 250 kW of power.
On top of this, the city will draw up a map marking underused sites (including urban wastelands) which also happen to be solar hotspots, with a view to encouraging private investors to develop solar power plants on this previously unused land.

In New York, a database of brownfields in the area called SPEED (Searchable Property Environmental E-Database) has been developed. According to Dan Walsh of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, this tool, which maps all urban wastelands in New York (encompassing more than 3,150 sites) and provides information on each one, will also allow people to “toggle through time” thanks to its historical maps. Just as in Philadelphia, the aim of the project is to make it easier for private investors to identify the best sites where the installation of solar power plants would prove to be more beneficial.
To further encourage private investors, the city has launched a reinvestment fund, at a value of 9 million dollars. Each site developer can then receive subsidies of between 60,000 and 140,000 dollars on the condition that they commit to cleaning up the site or to redeveloping it for renewable energy purposes.

Note 1: SPEED means "Searchable Property Environmental E-Database"

Read here the full article (source):
''Cities Use Brownfields to Go Solar''
Published on Dirt.asla.org - Avril 13, 2011

For more information:
Visit SPEED’s official homepage at https://gis.nyc.gov/moer/speed/login.jsp

Published by Nesrine AZIZI / Translated from French by: Laura GUTHRIE

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