Brownfields as renewable energy sources? Say yes!

Brownfields are defined by the EPA as land that has a significant “presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant” that would make the redevelopment or reuse of the land complicated. Or to use the Milwaukee CDC’s take on the EPA’s wording, brownfields are “abandoned, idled, or under-utilized industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination… The term ‘brownfield’ was first used to distinguish developed land from unused suburban and rural land, referred to as ‘greenfield’ sites.”

“Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands.” [epa.gov]

Grants and funding are available to reclaim this land, which Milwaukee has in plenty. The Tower Automotive site comes to mind. There’s also the American Concordia Industrial Tool & Mfg Co. grounds on 30th Street, and a long list of former factories, car washes, laundromats, empty churches, and otherwise unused lots on the city’s list of tax delinquent brownfields.

Someone came up with the great idea of using otherwise hard-to-develop brownfields for commercial-scale wind and solar farms. Why not? Through programs like this, the state of New Jersey has become a solar energy powerhouse, even when compared to sunnier states such as Hawai’i and Nevada.

We have more than enough direct sunlight here in Wisconsin to do it, too. I call upon the state governor and legislators to undertake an initiative to turn Wisconsin’s plentiful brownfields into renewable energy sources. The investment made today will certainly pay off in the long run.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.