Google Earth Layer Maps Renewable Energy Potential of US Contaminated Land

All those dots are EPA-managed contaminated land... Image: EPA

If you’ve ever been playing around with Google Earth and thought that it would be a great tool to help inform people about the renewable energy potential in various parts of the United States, you’ve been thinking along the same lines as the Environmental Protection Agency. A new Google Earth layer they’ve released allows you to view the potential of various type of EPA-managed contaminated land for a full spectrum of renewable energy types. When you first load the layer, with all the defaults on, the US looks like a pincushion of colored dots. Check it out:
Superfund Sites, Brownfields Mapped for Renewable Energy Potential
I’m not sure which is the most compelling thing to take away from the initial ‘all-on’ view the EPA Renewable Energy Interactive Map: the fact that the EPA manages a huge number of contaminated lands—the layer shows abandoned mine land, brownfields, RCRA hazardous waste sites, as well as federal and non-federal superfund sites—or that there’s a great deal of renewable energy potential at those locations.

Utility-scale, Community-scale and Non-Grid Tied Wind Power locations. Image: EPA
Why Contaminated Sites?
In touting using contaminated land for renewable energy, the EPA Renewable Energy on Contaminated Lands and Mining Sites web page list among the advantages:

Little Chance of Aesthetic Opposition

Many EPA tracked lands, such as large Superfund and RCRA sites, and mining sites offer thousands of acres of land, and may be situated in areas where the presence of wind and solar structures are less likely to be met with aesthetic opposition.

Infrastructure Already Exists
These EPA tracked lands have existing electric transmission lines and capacity and other critical infrastructure, such as roads, and are adequately zoned for such development. The avoided new infrastructure capital and zoning costs is often significant.

Other Redevelopment Not an Option
Many EPA tracked lands are in areas where traditional redevelopment may not be an option because the site may be remote, or may simply be saddled with environmental conditions that are not well suited for traditional redevelopment such as residential or commercial.

The coolest thing about the map is that in addition to just the location of all these sites, if you roll over any of the dots the location’s name is displayed, and if you click on it the site’s name, the acreage, and more detailed information is displayed about the location’s renewable energy potential.

The general types of renewable energy mapped by this layer are utility-scale wind, community wind, non-grid wind, CPS utility solar, PV utility solar, non-grid PV solar, and biofuels (not crops, either as a biopower facility or a biorefinery).

:: Renewable Energy on Contaminated Land and Mining Sites | US EPA
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