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EPA proposes using contaminated land for renewable energy

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Screenshot of Google Earth

(Read caption) This Google Earth layer shows renewable-energy development potential on EPA-tracked contaminated land and mining sites.

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The thing about renewable-energy projects is that we don't want to live near them, but we don't want to put them on pristine land, either.

This would seem to eliminate all the options, but the Environmental Protection Agency has come up with an alternative: What if we put our big ugly wind farms, solar arrays, and bioreactors on land that we've already messed up?

Working with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the EPA has compiled a database of brownfields, hazardous waste dumps, and abandoned mines in all 50 states that could provide homes for renewable energy projects. The agency then created a nifty Google Earth layer that anyone can download and fiddle around with.

Building such projects on contaminated land has many advantages, says the EPA. The land is cheap. Many sites already have existing power lines and roads leading to them (artifacts of the industrial activity that wrecked the land in the first place). And they offer good jobs in communities that are most likely economically depressed (because that industrial activity has moved elsewhere, and because people who can afford not to generally don't live near hazardous waste sites).

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