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Energy Conservation, Efficiency, and Renewable Energy

Minimizing total energy use and maximizing use of renewable energy during contaminated site cleanup is a core element of EPA’s Principles for Greener Cleanups and associated green remediation strategies. Prioritized methods for addressing this core element involve:

  • Reducing the project’s overall energy load
  • Using onsite sources of renewable energy to produce power for remedial operations
  • Purchasing green power supplied by offsite sources.

Reduction of Energy Loads

EPA's Superfund Program recognizes that improving energy efficiency is one of the most constructive and cost–effective ways to address the challenges of high energy prices, energy security and independence, air pollution, and global climate change. Minimizing a remediation project's energy consumption relies on periodic energy audits and continuous efforts to conserve energy and increase efficiency of required energy. Opportunities to minimize energy consumption typically relate to equipment used for in situ or ex situ treatment of contaminated media (such as air blowers or groundwater pumps), auxiliary equipment (such as diesel-powered electricity generators and cooling units) and buildings or sheds housing the project’s equipment and supplies. Energy efficiency improvements also may involve innovative solutions such as combined heat and power (CHP) systems that allow recovery and beneficial use of waste heat from associated engines or turbines.

Use of a systematic approach such as value engineering and a remediation optimization strategyClick icon for EPA disclaimer. can help identify opportunities to reduce the energy load on a site-specific basis and consequently reduce the project’s energy-related environmental footprint. EPA’s National Strategy to Expand Superfund Optimization Practices from Site Assessment to Site Completion (PDF) (19 pp, 364KB, about PDF) aims to apply optimization concepts throughout all phases of the remedial pipeline as a normal part of remedial program activities.

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Renewable Energy Production Onsite

Use of renewable resources such as solar or wind energy results in little to no pollution or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and allows for the conservation of natural resources. One goal of EPA’s Superfund Green Remediation Strategy (PDF) (32pp, 246K, About PDF) is to use 100 percent renewable energy to power Superfund site operations.

EPA is constructing onsite renewable energy systems to directly power cleanup equipment or offset grid-supplied power used at Superfund sites. Ground water cleanup at the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Site Click icon for EPA disclaimer. in Davis, California, for example, is powered by 100 percent renewable energy through solar power. Other examples of onsite renewable energy systems include:

Under the RE-Powering America’s Land initiative, EPA partners with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory in feasibility studies to evaluate the potential for renewable energy production at additional Superfund sites.

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Renewable Energy Purchase

EPA's renewable energy goal for Superfund sites also involves purchases of green power in the form of:

  • Renewable energy certificates (RECs)
  • Utility products, and
  • Power purchase agreements.

Green power sources produce electricity with an environmental profile superior to conventional power technologies and produce no fossil-fuel based GHG emissions. In the Superfund Program, green power purchases are particularly important for sites where onsite production of renewable energy is technically or economically infeasible or cannot meet the full electricity demand of the cleanup.

A REC represents the environmental benefits, such as reduced pollution and GHG emissions and increased conservation of natural resources, associated with generating one megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity from a renewable energy source. EPA's national Superfund Program made its first bulk purchase of RECs in 2012, when approximately 100,000 RECs were purchased from the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) (an arm of the U.S. DOE) for electricity used during remediation for the second half of 2011, 2012, and part of 2013 at fund-financed sites (where cleanup costs are paid through federal Superfund appropriations). These RECs were generated from wind farms constructed in 2009 or later in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota and were Green-e certified Click icon for EPA disclaimer.. Green-e certification ensures that no double counting of RECs has occurred (the RECs are only assigned once to the Superfund program), that the RECs originate from new projects (all of the facilities for the national bulk purchase started operation in 2009 or later), and that the RECs are generated by operating wind farms.

Another purchase of 40,000 Green-e certified RECs was made for the electricity used during the remainder of 2013 at fund-financed sites; however this acquisition occurred through the Defense Logistics Agency or DLA (part of the U.S. Department of Defense). Half of these RECs were generated from wind farms in Nebraska, and the other half of the RECs were generated from biomass and landfill gas at facilities in Minnesota and Oklahoma.

With the assistance of annual output emissions rates and EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, EPA estimates that the total Superfund program purchase of approximately 140,000 RECs to date will help avoid a similar amount of GHG as those produced by:

  • Approximately 26,000 passenger vehicles annually, or
  • The carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of about 17,000 average American homes each year.

At a local level, EPA regional offices with responsibility for Superfund cleanups are purchasing renewable energy from utilities offering green power products. These products give customers the ability to select the type and percentage of renewable energy supplies provided by the utility. In states with restructured electricity markets, green power may be purchased from competitive providers of electricity.

EPA regional offices also encourage Superfund site owners to engage in renewable energy development through power purchase agreements (PPAs). A PPA is a financial arrangement involving a third-party developer who owns, operates, and maintains a renewable energy system (commonly a photovoltaic and/or wind turbine system) constructed on the property undergoing cleanup. In return for allowing the renewable energy system to be situated on the property, the property owner is able to purchase the system’s electric output for a predetermined period and cost that is often lower than prevailing rates. The Aerojet-General Corporation Superfund site Click icon for EPA disclaimer. in Rancho Cordova, California, for example, hosts a 6 MW solar farm made possible through a PPA among the site owner, the local utility, and a renewable energy developer.

For more information about EPA's national Superfund Program membership in the Green Power Partnership, contact Laura Knudsen (knudsen.laura@epa.gov) or Larry Zaragoza (zaragoza.larry@epa.gov), Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation.


Aerojet General Corp. Superfund Site (Sacramento County, CA)

Lawrence Aviation Industries (Port Jefferson Station, New York)

Former Nebraska Ordnance Plant Superfund Site (Mead, Nebraska)

Summitville Mine Superfund Site (Colorado)

Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Site (Davis, CA)

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