There is a lot of demand for renewable energy, specifically from solar energy farms, land-based wind farms, and sea-based wind turbines. For 2017, new solar energy plants coming online will add 12,600 megawatts to the grid. The Annapolis Renewable Energy Park is just a small part of that new energy output. However, it is a bold action that is significant in another way. It will be using 80 acres of a former landfill in Anne Arundel County, which makes it the largest non-federally funded solar energy farm on a closed landfill.
This is enough land to put up solar energy plants capable of generating 3 million MW, which is equivalent to the current total demand for electricity in the United States.
The exact cost of the Anne Arundel facility is still to be determined, but it is covered in an agreement with the Building Energy, S.p.A., an Italian renewable energy company, via its American subsidiary, Building Energy Development US LLC. BQ Energy LLC will construct the energy farm, and then turn it over to Building Energy Devt.
BQ Energy specializes in turning brownfields into brightfields. The Annapolis project was signed in 2015, for a 20 year lease. Annapolis will earn an average of $260,000 annually for the property lease.
Brownfields are land which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared to have the potential presence or the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. These are usually old landfills, or industrial parks and factories which have been shut down. Brownfields are not much use to the community, as they cannot be used for housing, industrial or commercial buildings. A few landfills have been used to harness methane deposits which are then harvested for energy production, while at the same time were converted into parks.
Brightfields are brownfields converted into renewable energy farms, like solar energy plants or wind turbine farms. The advantage of most brownfields is their location. They are usually near urban or heavily urbanized areas, and near electric or power junctures. Sites of former industrial plants usually still have high tension electric wires nearby, making it easier and less costly to get the new energy generated into the grid.
Economics Favor Brownfields for Solar
The economics of land use are in favor of using brownfields. They are generally unusable, but according to the EPA there are more than 80,000 which have already been pre-screened for possible use as brightfields. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that the country’s brownfields cover around 15 million acres. This is enough land to put up solar energy plants capable of generating 3 million MW, which is equivalent to the current total demand for electricity in the United States.
In some places, there is almost no land available for renewable energy plants. The only viable alternative is brownfields.
Of course, there are some issues with brownfields, and the only way to deal with these issues is to take them slowly, which takes time. These may include a raft of inspections, and permits required to use these contaminated land and former landfills. The pre-development phase can take anywhere from 18 months to 4 years before the land is ready for any construction.
The Annapolis project may be the biggest brightfield solar power plant project for now. This bold action will be followed by others in the pipeline, including a 20MW solar array project in Maine to be built over a capped landfill. New Jersey’s PSEG is expected to add 33MW of brightfield solar power capability to add to its existing 158 MW by 2020.