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RE-Powering Accomplishment Highlights

Since its inception in 2008, the RE-Powering Initiative has promoted renewable energy investments on contaminated properties through a combination of tailored redevelopment tools, outreach and technical assistance. The Initiative uses a multi-pronged approach to combine cleanup and renewable energy development on contaminated land, with continuous community and stakeholder engagement. 

To date, 213 renewable energy installations have been installed on contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites, with a cumulative installed capacity of just over 1,235 megawatts (MW) and consistent growth in total installations since the inception of the program.

Overall, the RE-Powering team successfully has and continues to develop and identify resources and tools to meet stakeholder needs; provide access to crucial information and data; and promote a cohesive approach at the federal level to further RE-Powering goals. Harvard University recognized the efforts of RE-Powering by selecting the Initiative as one of the Top 25 Innovations in American Government.

Some specific activities and accomplishments achieved by RE-Powering include:

Developing Mapping and Screening Tools

RE-Powering Mapper

To assist stakeholders learn about the renewable energy potential of contaminated properties in their region, the Initiative expanded and enhanced its RE-Powering Mapper tool, which has preliminarily screened more than 80,000 EPA- and state-tracked sites on more than 43 million acres for solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal potential.

To develop the tool, RE-Powering partnered with the National Renewable Energy Lab, as well as collaborated with state agencies from California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia to screen for renewable energy potential at over 47,000 state-tracked sites.

Electronic Decision Tree

To aid stakeholders navigate the various issues to consider when trying to determine a renewable energy project’s feasibility, RE-Powering developed an electronic decision tree that guides users through a process for screening site suitability for solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind installations. The electronic decision tree:

  • Explores potentially contaminated sites (e.g., brownfields, RCRA-permitted, Superfund), landfills, and underutilized sites and rooftops;
  • Walks users through a series of Yes / No / Skip questions supplemented by tips and links to relevant tools and information resources;
  • Screens for site characteristics, redevelopment considerations, criteria specific to landfills and contaminated sites, energy load, and policies and financial considerations; and
  • Generates reports of the screening results and user annotations that can be printed and/or copied into another document.

Providing Assistance Regarding Liability Concerns

Hearing concerns about potential liability from reusing formerly contaminated properties, the Initiative developed documents that clarify liability, including new guidance, model comfort letters, and fact sheets that cover liability concerns and the treatment of tenants under the Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser Provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

The Initiative has also provided site-specific assistance as appropriate to clarify liability in order to move projects forward.  For example, EPA provided a comfort letter to one of the co-owners of the DuPont Solar Farm in Newport, DE, which helped the developer secure the financing necessary to complete the project.

Developing Handbooks, Best Practice Guides, and Other Resources

Understanding that planning for and development of renewable energy projects can be effectively integrated within ongoing cleanup activities, RE-Powering developed the Handbook on Siting Renewable Energy Projects While Addressing Environmental Issues.  This Handbook provides tools to help interested parties determine the overall feasibility of siting renewable energy production and some key considerations for integrating renewable energy development during all phases of typical cleanup processes.

Recognizing the growing trend of reusing former landfills as solar installations, the Initiative developed the Best Practices for the Installation of Solar Photovoltaics (PV) on Municipal Solid Waste Landfills to provide assistance in addressing common technical challenges for siting solar PV projects on MSW landfills for solar developers and landfill owners as well as federal, state and local stakeholders.

Providing Site-Specific Technical Assistance and Stakeholder Outreach

Receiving project inquiries from communities, property owners, developers, and other stakeholders, RE-Powering created a network of professionals across its headquarters and regional offices, known as the RE-Powering Response Team, to provide site-specific assistance and project support.

To educate stakeholders about the potential opportunities to develop renewable energy on contaminated properties and help assess project feasibility, the Initiative also has provided technical assistance through the Initiative’s interagency agreement with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), as well as provided tutorials and assistance related to RE-Powering’s screening and mapping tools. 

To create an open forum to share innovative ideas and best practices, RE-Powering has organized a series of stakeholder meetings and workshops, including a finance workshop, convening bankers, developers, communities, and insurance companies to discuss structuring deals to address environmental issues. 

RE-Powering has also produced a number of communication products that highlight activities, benefits and accomplishments, including success stories, case studies, and newsletters that keep RE-Powering’s stakeholders informed about progress, trends, and products related to renewable energy and contaminated lands.

Recognizing the value of sharing news of other successful projects, the Initiative regularly compiles and reports information on specific completed projects and identifies trends related to renewable energy development on contaminated lands.

Conducting Program Evaluation

Recognizing that the Initiative has lessons to learn from its previous activities and efforts, the Initiative has begun a staged evaluation of its work.  As a first step, RE-Powering has completed an evaluation scoping assessment to identify methods and data that would be needed to assess the Initiative’s effectiveness.  The Initiative is now considering the results of this assessment and exploring the practicality of which aspects of the Initiative to continue to evaluate.