June 15, 2023

From Brownfields to Brightfields

Solar brownfields, long overlooked, are beginning to shine as opportunities for renewable energy development!

Solar brownfields, long overlooked, are beginning to shine as opportunities for renewable energy development. But how is this transition from waste to wealth happening? What are the challenges, and more importantly, the benefits? In this blog post, we delve into a conversation with Corey Hindin of AC Power, a company at the forefront of transforming brownfields into productive solar energy farms.

AC Power views business development as a comprehensive process, beginning from selecting viable markets up to formalizing agreements with landowners to conduct due diligence for potential solar projects. A critical part of this process involves evaluating the solar potential of sites. These evaluations are made through preliminary screenings and financial models to assess whether a project is feasible and profitable.

These solar brownfield projects require a unique approach as each site presents its own challenges and opportunities. The creativity needed in structuring such projects is a crucial aspect of AC Power’s business model. This goes hand in hand with the hands-on approach of meeting and working with landowners, who often own previously disturbed sites. From family-owned landfills to major waste firms, these unique individuals bring their own narratives to the development process.

Brownfield development is not without its challenges, however. Comparing it to greenfield development, Hindin mentions the more significant downside risks associated with brownfields, especially given their regulation by state and federal entities like the EPA. When developing a landfill or a brownfield, particularly those capped with hazardous material, a crucial consideration is preserving the cap. This means designing a solar project that doesn't disturb the site, which often entails using ballasted racking and additional engineering.

The emergence of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has catalyzed the shift towards solar brownfields by offering tax credits for such projects. The IRA has ushered in more competition, but AC Power's differentiation lies in their deep understanding of what is and isn't possible, effectively mitigating risks. This ability to communicate the nuances of brownfield development to landowners is essential, as they often receive interest from a myriad of parties without necessarily having the expertise to differentiate between them.

AC Power Projects!

Hindin emphasized the need for experienced teams to tackle solar brownfields. He urges other companies looking to get into the space to approach these types of projects responsibly. The regulatory landscape, particularly environmental regulations, plays a significant role in shaping solar brownfield projects. For Hindin, the balance lies in adhering to strong state regulations, which then ensures investors’ comfort in backing the projects.

Looking ahead, AC Power aspires to hit 1.21 gigawatts of energy in the next few years, demonstrating its commitment to become the leader in the solar brownfields space. Solar brownfields not only offer potential for renewable energy but also provide opportunities for site remediation, transforming these disturbed sites into productive, renewable energy assets.

In conclusion, the development of solar brownfields presents a substantial opportunity for renewable energy generation. As this field continues to grow, companies like AC Power are leading the way in demonstrating how brownfield development can effectively contribute to a sustainable future.

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