Google Earth map to boost US renewable energy production

US environmental chiefs have unveiled an interactive Google Earth map showing thousands of contaminated land sites that could be developed to provide renewable energy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hopes the Renewable Energy Interactive map will encourage the use of contaminated lands for renewable energy production by identifying thousands of acres of former or currently contaminated lands and mining sites it says can make “exceptional locations for clean and renewable energy development”.

Stephen L Johnson, agency administrator, said: “EPA is putting renewable energy production on the virtual map. Our new interactive website encourages states and energy companies to put previously contaminated properties back to work.”

The agency cites a number of advantages to using contaminated lands, including:

  • many sites are in areas where building wind or solar structures is less likely to face opposition on aesthetic grounds.
  • critical infrastructure is already in place, such as electricity lines and roads along with appropriate zoning for development thereby saving massive start up costs.
  • using brownfield sites for green energy production eases pressure on greenfield sites
  • provide new jobs for communities where old industrial, manufacturing and mining sites closed down
  • Some 480,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties across the USA are tracked by the EPA.

    Working with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory it has identified around 10,000 contaminated lands and mining sites with renewable energy potential.

    With the US government estimating the demand for renewable energy will grow by around a third over the next 25 years, building renewable energy facilities on these sites using partnerships between government agencies, the private sectors and communities could help meet this demand and avoid farmland and greenfield use.

    EPA spokeswoman Latisha Petteway said: “The EPA looks for opportunities to encourage the cleanup of contaminated sites, recognizing that some contaminated properties have attributes that could make them attractive candidates for the siting of renewable energy production facilities.”

    The agency map adds a layer of coloured-coded dots to the Google Earth software, showing properties that could host solar, wind or biomass energy production.

    Zooming in and clicking on a dot brings up site information, including its acreage, existing environmental status and renewable energy potential.

    To see the map follow the directions at webpage

    David Gibbs

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