EPA, DOE study renewable energy on West Haymarket Brownfield Site in NE

Nov 11, 2011

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are collaborating on a project to evaluate the feasibility of transforming West Haymarket Brownfield Site in Lincoln, NE, into a site to generate renewable wind energy.

DOE officials, using up to $35,000 in funds provided by EPA, will conduct the feasibility study on the 32-acre site that is considered environmentally contaminated, or a brownfield site.

The Union Pacific Railroad fueled trains and conducted other maintenance activities at the 32-acre West Haymarket site beginning in the late 1800s. In May 2010, voters approved a bond measure to revitalize the site with a focus on sustainability.

The West Haymarket Renewable Energy Project seeks to transform the current brownfield site into a site to generate renewable wind energy. EPA said wind energy could be used to power the large-scale redevelopment’s planned 16,000-seat arena, outdoor festival area, and other civic, commercial and retail projects. The renewable energy project would help make the proposed $340 million redevelopment project more sustainable, reduce ongoing power costs, and reduce the project’s carbon footprint, according to EPA.

“Renewable energy is a vital part of America’s energy future. By using wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources, we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while at the same time, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from other sources of energy production,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks.

EPA’s RE-powering America’s Land Initiative encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated land and mine sites when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. The collaboration pairs EPA’s expertise on contaminated sites with DOE’s expertise in renewable energy.

As part of the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative, EPA is investing approximately $1 million for projects across the U.S. aiming to decrease the amount of green space used for development while continuing to ensure the protection of people’s health, the environment and provide economic benefits to local communities, including job creation.

EPA Region 7, which is comprised of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and nine tribal nations, is one of only three regions to have four sites selected, with one in each state of the region.

NREL will conduct the study in cooperation with the city, said Ben Washburn, spokesman for EPA Region 7 in Kansas City, KS.

“The city will be receiving the study. It won’t be receiving any funds,” he said.

Lincoln is one of 26 cities across the U.S. that will receive such help through EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative.

Wind farms have been popping up across the U.S. for several years now, but scientists say they date back much farther, even giving credit to farmers for some of the early inventions.

Former President George W. Bush discussed the idea with policy makers during his administration, saying, “Since around the year 1900, windmills were used to pump water in farms and ranches in the country. They even led to the production of electricity and turbines. Before that, grain was ground and water was pumped with the help of windmills as early as year 200 B C.”

According to figures from the American Wind Energy Association website, the U.S. has the wind resource potential to generate more than 14.5 million gigawatts of energy each year, though currently, it produces only 43,461 gigawatts.

Untapped wind resources could create a significant increase in global job growth, according to a statement posted on the Global Wind Energy Council website, which states that the wind energy industry employed more than 400,000 workers worldwide in 2008, and by 2020 could employ more than 2.2 million workers.

According to Edwin Stafford, co-director of the Center for the Market Diffusion of Renewable Energy and Clean Technology, those living in rural areas could benefit the most from renewable energy growth.

“What’s happening now is that the agricultural industry faces interesting problems because of imports of food from other countries. Sometimes they’re cheaper than what we can grow right here in the states. Agriculture is always kind of subject to droughts, to storms that might destroy crops, etc. This is kind of a hazard for the industry just in general,” Stafford said in a recent interview.

“You can put wind turbines on farms,” he said.

“You can continue to graze cattle under wind turbines. You can continue to grow corn and wheat and different types of crops under wind turbines. You can literally get energy income, and you can have income from your harvest of your crops,” Stafford added. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor