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Idaho’s Bright Future Means Turning Brownfields into Brightfields

The Treasure Valley’s most well-known development of a brownfield is probably Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, known more commonly as JUMP, which was developed on land that was a notorious eyesore for people driving into Idaho’s most urban city. 

But what many people may not know is that brownfields are commonplace across Idaho, and although some may turn into hip meeting places or giant facilities for Simplot, many become solar farms. That’s among the best ideas for a brownfield.

A brownfield is any plot of land that is unused and underdeveloped. Most are unused landfills, out-of-service gas stations, and industrial sites that have high levels of contamination that present a high risk to public health.

But where some see land filled with waste, we clean energy enthusiasts see illuminating opportunity. 

While reliable statistics are hard to find about Idaho’s brownfield opportunities, across America, 

there are more than 450,000 brownfield sites. Thanks to incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act, communities can now revitalize these lands and deploy clean energy solutions at the same time.

Brightfields is a term that is applied to land that has been converted to house solar farms, harnessing the power of the bright sun to create power. In short, it means turning brownfields into brightfields. 

In an exciting collaboration, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has joined forces with Kansas State University’s Technical Assistance to Brownfields (TAB) program to launch the very first accelerator program for brightfields projects. This initiative offers technical assistance, tools, and resources to help local governments, site owners, and community partners make informed decisions about brownfield site reuse and revitalization. Moreover, it prepares interested parties for funding, financing, and procuring clean energy projects.

In 2022, this partnership resulted in informative virtual workshops in Idaho to equip communities of all sizes with the knowledge needed to make sustainable choices for brownfield sites:

Brightfields 101 Workshop (October 20, 2022):

  • Provided an understanding of what brightfields are and the opportunities they offer.
  • Educated participants on the co-benefits and challenges of brightfields.
  • Advanced understanding on how brightfields move from concept to creation.

Video Recording

Presentation Slides

Case Study – Ann Arbor Landfill Solar Project

Case Study – Houston Sunnyside Landfill Solar Project

Brightfields 102 Workshop (November 16, 2022):

  • Helped participants grasp the brightfield development process.
  • Covered the EPA Brownfield Grant Program and other funding opportunities.
  • Explored new funding and financing possibilities presented by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Video Recording

Presentation Slides

Procurement Guidance

The Big Switch Podcast

Vox Landfill Solar Article

Turning brownfields into brightfields is more than just a catchy phrase; it’s a pathway to a brighter and cleaner future for Idaho. 

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