ERIC Number: EJ1198490
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018
ISSN: ISSN-1933 8341
What Can You Do with Contaminated Lands? Make Clean Energy!
Waite, Jacqueline L.
Geography Teacher, v15 n4 p163-172 2018
Contamination occurs when a hazardous substance is released to the soil, water, or air at a particular location. Sometimes former industrial properties are abandoned and the status of the land is not known. The term brownfield is generally applied to contaminated or potentially contaminated properties. Superfund refers to the money that Congress set aside to help clean up these properties. It may take decades to clean up these sites at significant expense to responsible parties and/or taxpayers. The impacts of air, water, and soil contamination are more likely to be felt by people who live on the edges of industrial areas. The U.S. EPA's goal is to see that the planned or expected reuse option will be protective of human health and the environment (U.S. EPA n.d.a.), but the agency does not dictate the specific local reuse options. U.S. EPA's RE-Powering America's Land Initiative encourages renewable energy development on contaminated lands. Projects serve several purposes, including providing clean energy for communities interested in reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating climate change, bringing abandoned land back into productive use, and possibly relieving pressure on green space for the same purpose. Additional benefits of siting renewable energy on contaminated lands, mine sites, and landfills include the proximity to existing infrastructure (e.g., electric lines, security fencing) and reduced leasing or purchasing costs. This article describes a lesson which focuses students on solar energy. The objective of this project is to use geographic reasoning along with data and tools from the U.S. EPA's RE-Powering America's Land Initiative and other sources to examine the feasibility of developing renewable energy (e.g., solar PV) on contaminated or potentially contaminated sites. Students identify potential sites in their area for further investigation, download the data table of contaminated lands that have been screened for solar energy and examine them, Click on each sample site within the RE-Power Mapper to see a pop-up describing the site including links to renewable resource availability (RE-Powering Profile) and the latest cleanup status data (site status). They organize and analyze geographic data, and answer geographic questions in a concluding summative assessment. While the exercise is geared toward renewable energy development on contaminated lands/brownfields, this type of feasibility study can be conducted just about anywhere. The PVWatts tool allows for analyzing the solar PV potential of rooftops, parking lots, and even students' backyards. However, by focusing on brownfields, students begin to appreciate not only the geography of renewable energy resources, but the former industrial landscape, the legacy of contamination, and the ways in which communities create healthier places for people and other living things.
Descriptors: Energy, Pollution, Geography Instruction, Environmental Education, Secondary Education, Higher Education, Learning Activities
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A