December 7, 2018 Read More →

New opportunity in turning closed mine sites into solar installations

Energy News Network:

As U.S. coal consumption continues to decline, there’s slowly growing acceptance that more mine closures are inevitable and that the system meant to help clean up and repurpose the sites is underfunded. One ray of hope for reclaiming the sites: renewable energy.

Patrick Molloy, an associate at Rocky Mountain Institute’s Sunshine for Mines program, said there has been more talk than action in covering disused mine waste piles with solar arrays or other forms of renewable energy generation. He said only two such sites are currently operating in the U.S.

“There is an untapped opportunity that can be developed,” Molloy said. “You give an opportunity for local communities to see a road past closure.”

The Rocky Mountain Institute published a report last year analyzing the potential to convert abandoned mine sites to renewable energy hubs. It found that using contaminated mined land for electricity generation could “transform these liabilities into revenue-generating assets.”

Molloy said that innovative approaches to cleaning up mined land could take advantage of decreasing renewable energy costs. China, for example, opened a massive floating solar project last year on a lake that formed on old mine workings. “Use the market — and it’s incredibly competitive right now — to find the right solution,” Molloy said.

Until recently, mined lands weren’t an attractive prospect for investors and developers. Molloy said that’s beginning to shift in the renewable sector. “Solar developers have come on board as well with the view of developing commercial-scale solar,” Molloy said.

More: As coal declines, solar offers possible path for reclaiming old mining sites

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