How to Convert Brownfields to Green Energy Projects, and Do It Right

Bjorn Jensen (MCP ’10) came to some important conclusions when he looked at four brownfied-to-renewable energy projects. Three of these projects were successful, he says, despite the fact that they had significant (and typical) challenges, such as cleanup costs, liability risks, uncertainty, technical and legal complexity, and the need to coordinate multiple stakeholders. He found that these barriers were overcome through strong partnerships characterized by full cooperation among developers, property owners, regulators,
and local officials. Most importantly, these partnerships were driven by political and public support, which came from an expectation that brownfield-to-renewable energy projects would improve the city’s image and stimulate development of the local clean energy industry locally.


Jensen suggests that locating renewable energy facilities on contaminated lands is a possible solution to the siting controversies faced by new renewable energy facilities, and by wind farms especially. Jensen concludes with recommendations for local, state, and federal actions to encourage and facilitate brownfields-to-renewable energy projects, specifically emphasizing a “carve-out” strategy to use the cleanest parts of brownfields for new energy projects.

For more information, read Jensen’s thesis, “Brownfields to green energy: redeveloping contaminated lands with large-scale renewable ener