Green Shift: “Turn Brownfields Into Brightfields”

What a great, memorable, accessible concept.

Think Bright. Not Brown.

“Brownfields into Brightfields” means means transforming unproductive industrial spaces into energy-producing solar power installations.

As a NJ native, I grew up on the concept of brownfields. These are spaces that have already been used for commercial or industrial use. They are “brown” in that they are usually cemented over.  They aren’t green, haven’t been for a long time and they won’t ever be again.

No trees. No shade. Cracked cement. High chainlink fences.

Often contaminated, making them unsuitable for many purposes.

Usually close to densely populated areas, but not in the middle of things.

Which makes them perfect sites for energy-producing, job-creating, renewable energy projects.

The EPA has been on this idea for years.

Via epa.gov:

Brightfields Initiatives

Brightfields is a revolutionary concept that addresses three of the nation’s biggest challenges — urban revitalization, toxic waste cleanup, and climate change — by bringing pollution-free solar energy and high-tech solar manufacturing jobs to brownfields.

The Brightfields approach offers a range of opportunities to link solar energy to brownfields redevelopment and thereby transform community hazards and eyesores into productive, green ventures.

This unprecedented campaign will help our nation put its hundreds of thousands of brownfields back into productive use and at the same time create high-tech jobs in blighted urban neighborhoods, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With thanks to National Geographic writer Christina Nunez, I learned about about a Brightfield project in Hackensack, NJ.

Via theenergycollective.com:

Turning Brownfields Into Brightfields With Solar Energy

Thousands of contaminated tracts of land labeled brownfields by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may eventually provide the valuable real estate needed for renewable energy projects, and New Jersey is at the forefront of using such sites to bolster its status as a leader in solar energy.

The utility PSE&G is installing 4,000 solar panels on a six-acre site in Hackensack, N.J., that was once the home of a gas plant and then gas storage facilities. For this site and many others, cleaning up the land for traditional development is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

This is another one of these private-public-industry partnerships that have the power to actually work.

I wrote about a similar project back in May 2012.

Green Government: NJ Dump Gets New Life as Solar Farm

New Jersey’s newest solar farm is located on a 13-acre closed landfill in Kearny. From fallow to flourishing, the site is expected to power 500 homes.

A key success here in my mind–and hopefully a model for future development–is that this project required a lot of people with their own agendas and motivations to work together. It could not have been easy to coordinate this first-in-class project between a state-regulated public utility (PSE&G), a joint government/business  commission, private industry, and state government officials.

Brownfields seemed like places beyond repair. Turns out they are part of a brighter future.

Green Business: Buy a Solar Panel in a “Solar Garden”

It’s a beautiful thing when the right thing is the easiest (and cheapest) thing.

Here’s a new idea (to me):  It’s called a “Solar Garden.”

Think of it as a community garden for renewable energy.

The energy company puts up solar panels, you buy one, and each month you receive credit for the power generated by “your” panel off your bill.

Via doe.gov and WindsorBeacon.com:

Solar garden planned for Poudre Valley REA

The project will encompass more than 400 solar panels generating 115,000 watts of electricity.

. . .

The solar garden concept allows all consumers to participate in renewable energy, including renters, those with poorly sighted properties and individuals of all income levels, without having to build a costly system of their own, and reap the benefits directly on their monthly electric bills through the utility.

What I love most is that this is a joint venture between a for-profit company that facilitates replicable, scalable clean power generation with real-time Smart Meters,  and a not-for-profit member-owned electric power cooperative.

Upsides:

1. Fair, Affordable, Accessible: Levels the playing field for renters, low-income folks, and those with non-solar-friendly homes.

2. Consistent Production: Colorado receives 300 days of sunshine a year for dependable generation.

3. Load Responsive: System generates more energy during times of peak demand (hot summer days).

4. Scalable: The utility has space and ability to grow with demand.

5. Aligned Interests: Both entities and consumers have skin in the game to produce the most clean energy for the lowest cost.

Win. Win. Win.