While the topic is brownfields that can "make a difference," so-called brightfields should get a spotlight. They are a way to transform an ordinary brownfield into a renewal energy power plant. In the process of being touchy-feely with the environment, corporations can also use a brightfield to land government grants, make for easier remediation and save on their energy bills.
"Brightfields are brownfields with a twist," says Veronica Benzinger, senior vice president at Aon Environmental.
Simply put, a brightfield is a brownfield site with solar-energy panels on it that funnel energy to the power grid. The Department of Energy is a brightfield fan, says Benzinger, for several reasons. Brightfields increase the available power supply with a green, sustainable source. They create high-tech jobs. And they're a less invasive way to deal with polluted sites.
Corporations with potential brownfield sites on their hands might be most interested in that last incentive. Less invasive means that owners of brownfields would only have to cap a landfill and then place solar panels on top. That makes it usually simpler to pull off, less risky and less expensive.
For typical brownfields, on the other hand, redevelopment is invasive. "In other words," says Benzinger, "I'd have to dig a foundation, I would disturb soil, I would have to put in utilities. These kinds of development activities would require different kinds of remediation protocol."
Corporations can also get tax incentives for a brightfield, she says. At the local and regulatory level, monetary rewards are doled out to brownfield redevelopers in general, but brightfields attract even more dollars--tax incentives and DOE grants--as a source of sustainable energy.
Brightfields have been a "pet project" for the DOE for the half-dozen or so years of their existence. Is there love on the other side, however? Benzinger isn't sure that developers clamor over them.
But Charles Perry, principal of Environmental Assurance Group, suggests that developers might catch on to the trend. "They'll justify it by renewable energy source documentation, and it's got to work or else it wouldn't be able to be financed," he says. "But what drives them there is the economic desire to get another deal done."
"We're still a capitalist society," he adds.
August 1, 2006
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