Building Solar Farms On Unusable Land

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solar farm sunset

It makes more sense to put vast solar farms on unusable land than to put them on farmland or in other green spaces.  What are some examples? Take a look here.

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As much as I am an advocate for solar on every house, I can’t complain when solar farms are installed on unusable land. I cringe when I see a sea of solar panels on farmland, unless that land can be reverted in the event we need to grow more food with our growing population. There is so much vacant land that cannot be developed or used for agriculture that can hold huge solar farms to heat thousands of homes.

Golf courses

Golf was a short-lived fad in Japan in the 1990s. As it died off, hundreds of golf courses developers went bankrupt. Some courses were in operation, and others were under construction, but all were abandoned. A handful are being developed into parks and housing, and Kyocera is turning several into solar farms.

A golf course offers perfect conditions for solar energy! Plenty of sun shines down on the wide-open fairways. There are very few shade trees to interfere. Infrastructure is in place, and they are easily accessible.

A 23 megawatt solar farm in Kyoto is expected to be operational in the fall of 2017 and able to power over 8,000 homes. An even larger one, at 92 MW, should be online the following year to serve approximately 30,000 homes.

I am sure there are plenty of abandoned golf courses in the US that could be put to good use, too!

Brownfields

Brownfields are old urban industrial sites that have little or no hazardous materials left behind. They are not considered environmental or health threats once they are cleaned up. A brownfield site cannot be used for housing, but it can be repurposed into retail or light industrial. Existing infrastructure and easy transportation access make them excellent candidates for solar farms.

Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) in New Jersey is building solar farms on hundreds of closed landfills throughout the state. The Kinsley Landfill in South Jersey was closed in 1987, and is ready to sport a 35-acre, 11MW solar farm to get electricity to 2,000 homes. Another in Kearny, in service for four years already, has a smaller array built on it – 3MW for 450 homes.

industrial land brownfield

In the UK, defunct coal mining sites are being converted to solar farms, too. Three different brownfields will have a total of 30 MW of power for 10,000 homes. Solar power generation is a much better use of contaminated land than coal mining!

Superfund sites

A site that is labeled a ‘Superfund’ has been contaminated with hazardous chemical waste. Soil and water pollution are proven health and environmental hazards, more serious than brownfields. Clean up and remediation takes decades, because the work entails much more than that for a brownfield.

One such site in Indianapolis, Indiana is now home to the 10MW Maywood Solar Farm. The Reilly Tar & Chemical Plant has been getting cleaned up for about 20 years, but the solar farm was built without disrupting the remediation.

There are thousands of Superfund Sites in the US that can be brought into productivity again. It’s ironic that something so toxic it causes birth defects can be converted into something environmentally friendly!

Benefits

Solar farms create jobs and increase tax revenue for municipalities. New Jersey alone has put thousands of people to work on these brownfield conversions. The initial investment is high, but there is a guaranteed and high ROI. Solar farms will eliminate thousands of pounds of CO2 emissions by replacing the need for fossil fuels.

Solar farms are good for the economy, and they are good for the environment, whether they are on your roof or covering some useless land.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.