Solar Development Opportunities

Solar energy installation projects continue to grow in popularity, but there is growing concern regarding the repurposing of working lands and greenfields (i.e., undeveloped, uncontaminated land) for renewable energy projects. In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is encouraging the development of renewable energy projects on undesirable properties with limited development potential (i.e., brownfields, superfund sites, landfills, mine sites, etc) through their RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative. Siting solar power facilities on these undesirable properties is an attractive option for turning potential liabilities into assets. EPA reports that since October 2022, 465 solar installation projects have been completed under the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative.

Development of a new solar power system requires diligent planning and thorough research, but when completed successfully can provide numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits to the surrounding area. For example, a solar power system can be installed on a closed landfill without disturbing the cap, thus repurposing an unusable property to beneficial use. Because the majority of undesirable properties targeted for reuse are regulated under state and/or federal environmental programs, siting renewable energy projects is no walk in the park. For instance, landfill solar systems are subject to local, state, and federal regulations, all of which pose unique obstacles to overcome during installation and operation. State rules and permitting requirements for developing solar on landfills differ, with some states having few restrictions and others not allowing development under most conditions. Regardless of the obstacles, the development of renewable energy projects on undesirable properties appears to be trending in the right direction.

To learn more about the potential benefits of siting renewable energy on contaminated lands, visit the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative website.