Earth Matters: Brownfields to brightfields

Lynn Capuano, President Terrapin Environmental Solutions Inc.

According to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Nassau and Suffolk counties contain 623 brownfield and superfund sites with unsafe levels of hazardous materials.

Brownfields are properties with a contaminant present at levels exceeding health-based or environmental standards, criteria or guidance.  Superfund sites are sites used for hazardous waste disposal that present a threat to public health or the environment.

We cannot delay focusing time, energy, attention and money on converting these contaminated land parcels to solar farms.

On a solar farm, like on a rooftop, solar panels capture energy from the sun.  The photovoltaic effect helps the panels harness the sun’s energy to generate electricity that can be used immediately, stored in a battery or sent to the electric grid.

Depending on the region and the amount of sunlight available, a 1 megawatt solar power plant can generate between 3-4.5 megawatt hours of electricity a day, or 1100-1600 MWh of electricity a year. This equates to 1.1-1.6 million units of electricity a year, per MW (1 MWh equals 1000 kilowatt hour, and a kWh is the unit of electricity).

The amount of energy consumed by the average American home each year is 10.76 MWh’s.  For comparison sake, a football field approximately 1.32 acres large filled with solar panels will produce 1.1-1.6 million units of electricity a year, per MW and power 100-160 homes.

Below is a random sampling of brownfields and superfund sites in Nassau County.

The name and location of the site, the contaminants and location of contamination are noted as well as the size of the site to give an idea of the energy potential of the site if converted to a solar farm.  A 1-acre site will produce approximately enough electricity for 70 – 110 average American homes per year.

  1. Photocircuits Corporation, Glen Cove, 10.33 acres – contaminants: 1,1,1 TCA; 1,1-dichloroethane; 1,2-dichloroethane; dichloroethylene; tetrachloroethylene (PCE); vinyl chloride; trichloroethene from manufacturing printed circuit boards; groundwater contamination.
  2. Unisys Corporation Site, Lake Success, 90.2 acres – contaminants: trichloroethene; tetrachloroethylene; 1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-triflouroethane (Freon 113); CIS-1,2-dichloroethane from defense-related casting, etching, degreasing, plating, machining and assembly.
  3. Alsy Manufacturing Inc., Hicksville, 4.5 acres – contaminants: arsenic, beryllium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, and zinc from manufacturing electric lamps and lampshades; groundwater and surface/subsurface soil contamination.
  4. Powers Chemco, Glen Cove, 1.5 acres – contaminants: toluene, ethylbenzene, ethyl acetate, and other residues from the formulation of printing inks from manufacturing photographic equipment and supplies; subsurface contamination and soil vapor intrusion.
  5. Utility Manufacturing/Wonder King Site, North Hempstead, 0.85 acres – contaminants: volatile organic compounds from blending and repackaging materials; groundwater and soil vapor intrusion.
  6. Columbia Cement Company, Freeport, 1.48 acres – contaminants: volatile organic compounds from manufacturing contact cement and other adhesives; subsurface soil and groundwater contamination.
  7. Gent Uniform Rental Service Site, Massapequa, 0.34 acres – contaminants: volatile organic compounds from washing and dry cleaning services; surface/subsurface soil and groundwater contamination.
  8. Citizens Development Company, University Gardens, 0.27 acres – contaminants: volatile organic compounds from dry cleaning and commercial florist; soil gas/air, subsurface soil and groundwater contamination.
  9. Bartlett Tree Company, Westbury, 0.41 acres – contaminants: aldrin; DDD; DDT; dieldrin; lindane; DDE; chlordane; alpha-BHC from pesticide storage; groundwater contamination and soil vapor.
  10. Techem, Inc., New Hyde Park, 0.19 acres – contaminants cadmium; chromium; copper; iron; lead; manganese; nickel; selenium; sodium from manufacturing acid-based chromium, cadmium, cyanide, nickel and zinc electroplating solutions; groundwater and soil contamination.
  11. Former Cibro Petroleum Terminal, Island Park, 12.12 acres – contaminants: semi-volatile organic compounds and volatile organic compounds from petroleum storage; soil contamination.
  12. 20 West Centennial, Roosevelt, 0.64 acres – contaminants: tetrachloroethene; trichloroethene; vinyl chloride; cis-1,2-dichloroethene from uniform and linen supply and commercial laundry; groundwater and soil contamination and soil vapor intrusion.
  13. Award Packaging, Garden City, 2.26 acres – contaminants: toluene; xylene (MIXED); tetrachloroethylene; acetone; ethylbenzene; chromium; copper; lead; benzo(b)fluoranthene; benzo(k)fluoranthene; Chrysene; benz(a)anthracene; benzo(a)pyrene; indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene; debenz[a,h]anthrace from application of print to plastic packaging material; groundwater and soil contamination and soil vapor intrusion.
  14. Former Aluminum Louvre Corporation, Old Bethpage, 3.39 acres – contaminants: trichloroethene (TCE); tetrachloroethylene (PCE); dichloroethylene; 1,1,1 TCA from manufacturing louvres; groundwater and soil contamination and soil vapor intrusion.

EPA surveyed over 130,000 sites for their renewable energy potential.  Of Long Island’s 623 contaminated sites, EPA identified 527 as having renewable energy potential.  These sites are all over Long Island and in every community.

Instead of continuing to endorse the development of fossil fuel-based energy like natural gas, we should provide more incentives and regulatory assistance to developers to convert brownfields and Superfund sites to brightfields.

We need to streamline and expedite the permitting process and develop a pool of knowledgeable people who can advise developers on the safety and engineering requirements of building a solar farm on contaminated land.

This is an economically viable and practical use of otherwise low value, vacant and unused land.  It is a common-sense response to climate change that we should embrace and pursue wholeheartedly.

We cannot afford to ignore this solution.

TAGGED: brownfields

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