Steel Winds- A renewable energy brownfield redevelopment

Lake Erie breezes makes Steel Winds the largest wind powered brownfield redevelopment in the country.

Photo by Liese Dart

Cities and towns across the country offer great potential for local renewable energy development.

Former industrial sites provide some of the best opportunities for energy development and can help revitalize local economies while reducing pressure to develop renewable energy on public lands, including some of America’s wild places.

Wind energy project revitalizes contaminated lands to produce clean power for New York homes

Steel Winds, a 35 megawatt wind project sited on the shores of Lake Erie, was built on the grounds of the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna, NY. This project powers approximately 6,500 homes in the area with renewable wind power. Steel Winds is a great example of how development on already degraded lands can be a benefit to local communities.

The Steel Winds project is sited on a 30-acre Superfund and brownfield site in Lackawanna, NY contaminated with industrial waste from decades of steel production. At one point this site housed the largest steel plant in the world, employing over 20,000 people in the 1940s.

Today Steel Winds generates 35 megawatts of power, and a broad range of public benefits, including reuse of existing equipment onsite such as Bethlehem Steel’s original substation. This project, an excellent example of wind done right, helps meet New York’s goal of meeting 29% of its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2015. According to the project developer, this wind farm avoids 32,000 tons of CO2 a year and uses no water.

What’s the best way to power America while protecting wild spaces?

One of the most promising ideas for expanding renewable energy is to clean up and re-use brownfields or other disturbed lands to site new clean renewable energy generation facilities.  Because they are underused, abundant, and often close to where demand for energy occurs, contaminated lands have tremendous potential for renewable energy development in all fifty states.

Through the EPA’s Re-powering America’s Land initiative, more than 11,000 already-disturbed sites have been identified across the country. These sites total nearly 15 million acres of land with potential for solar, wind, biomass and geothermal renewable energy projects.

The Wilderness Society supports renewable energy development that protects wildlands and ecosystem health, as well as clean air and clean water. Guiding projects to already degraded lands will help us protect those things.

The Steel Winds project is a great example of how communities can work towards building a future that promotes renewable energy while reusing one of our most precious assets—our lands.

The old Bethlehem Steel plant in New York is now home to fourteen turbines that generate renewable power. Photo by Liese Dart