Finding a use for brownfields in solar

The Garden State is putting its old industrial land and landfills to good use, installing solar power generation. This offers a use for the brownfields, which are unusable for other purposes without expensive cleanups and keeps the conflicts over the use of public land and other "green" properties for solar generation.

As a result of these minimized externalities, these projects were ushered through the permitting process by the state, receiving an enthusiastic “debut” at a Hackensack brownfield with the seemingly omnipresent Governor Chris Christie. Instead of litigious environmental review processes, and protests by activists, these projects appear to please everybody. There’s no “green-on-green” revolt, as the controversy over utility-scale solar in the West has been characterized in the media. There’s none of the escalating level of vitriol which has frequently flared up around these projects in the Golden State. And indeed, there are none of the significant environmental, archaeological, and social impacts associated with large-scale deployment of solar on previously undisturbed lands.

By reusing brownfields as locations for increasing solar generation, New Jersey is taking initiative in rethinking how municipalities implement their solar projects and utilizing land that would otherwise be unusable like in Arizona, where the state began using old farmland that was no longer fertile for solar fields.

While critics have been predicting the end of the California solar gold rush, solar is booming in New Jersey, a rainy state possessing a solar influx comparable to that of Portland, Oregon, and yet which is second in the nation installed solar capacity, behind only California. The recent PG&E announcement will push New Jersey past 1 gigawatt of solar capacity, which on a per-capita basisfar outpaces California.

As does Arizona, whose utility-scale solar installations are generally located on previously disturbed farmlands. The Grand Canyon State has a booming solar energy zone in the area of Gila Bend, Arizona, where farmland whose salinity levels got too high due to desert irrigation now is pumping out megawatts' worth of photovoltaic power. None of these projects have been marred by protest and rancor. California has the potential to follow suit as the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), currently under preparation, is evaluating the prospects for appropriate solar development over the whole spectrum of lands in the California desert: public and private, pristine and degraded.

Read the full article at Green Tech Media.