In the south west of the United States, sites formerly associated with traditional non-renewable energy sources have become beacons of innovation for new, exciting energy approaches. Towns formerly dominated by the mining industry have looked to a new source of inspiration - the sun. Led by Rocky Mountain Institute’s Sunshine for Mines Initiative, solar-centric redevelopments are underway in places like Arizona and Nevada.
Given that many of these locations in the south west of the country have been historically identified as “mining towns” it’s difficult to move past these entwined identities. However, the implementation of solar energy has breathed new life into localities that may have been facing something of an identity crisis in a world largely moving toward sustainable, renewable energy sources. With the closing of mines, the redevelopments have injected vital energy in the south west.
In Arizona, for example, the average irradiance is over 6kWh/m2/day, providing ample solar energy which can lead to much-needed economic growth if implemented correctly. The goal of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Sunshine for Mines Initiative is to utilise the abundant land formerly occupied by mines to develop renewable energy projects which also fuel economic development in areas that desperately need it. With the cost of renewable energy projects steadily declining as the technology becomes more efficient, these projects are more viable than ever before.
Despite the lower costs of technology, regulatory practices in these areas haven’t quite caught up to the progress of renewables and these regulations are, perhaps, the biggest limiting factor for initiatives like RMI’s Sunshine for Mines. In addition, proximity and connection to the grid can be difficult. Many former mining towns, like Globe in Arizona, sit on the edge of the grid and often see blackouts. From larger plants, to local microgrids, RMI believes that there is no single solution for these issues, but many varied approaches which may work in conjunction.
With these new initiatives springing up in townlands once dominated by more conventional energy approaches, we are truly seeing the solar revolution come to life across the United States. Huge portions of land have been identified as potential sites in Nevada, and solar plants have been established in New Mexico and Asarco. No matter what happens, the redevelopment of brownfields in the south west of the United States looks set to be a prosperous avenue moving forward.
To learn more, or develop your own solar project, contact YSG now or give us a call at (212) 389-9215.
By Shane Croghan