Renewables developers Ameresco and Inovateus Solar have completed a 2.62 MW solar project at a former General Motors Powertrain Division Plant turned brownfield site in the US state of Illinois.

The Danville solar system includes more than 6,600 solar modules and is connected to the Ameren utility grid.

The project, owned by Greenbacker Renewable Energy, is expected to generate more than 3,600,000 kWh of electricity and offset over 1,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The project contributes to Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act, which requires that 2,700MW of solar be installed in Illinois by 2030 and that 2% of those projects come from brownfield sites like closed landfills.

The Danville solar project began construction in November 2020 and reached completion in May.

Turning the former industrial site into a location for solar energy is part of a nationwide trend. According to a recent study from Environmental Science and Technology, an area greater than the state of Texas is set to be impacted by energy development and associated sprawl by the year 2040.

Already, agricultural interests are pushing back against solar arrays proposed for farms and pastures. The pushback is leading to energy generation projects being targeted on otherwise unusable land. In recent years the Environmental Protection Agency has identified roughly 80,000 brownfield sites that could be suitable for clean energy redevelopment.

Multiple restrictive ordinances or state laws have been passed in states like Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, and others. In 2021 alone, 13 solar and 31 wind projects were blocked by local government actions.

Unusable land can include contaminated land such as landfills or brownfield sites, as well as challenging terrain not typically used for building developments or high-yield agriculture.

Using these sites does not come without challenges, especially for those tasked with designing and installing solar PV projects. Challenges typically can range from how to install ground mount racking where protective caps are in place covering contaminated ground, to logistical issues such as transporting and using heavy equipment and materials on remote or difficult sites.

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