Superfund sites were for years persona non grata in the real estate world. Deemed uninhabitable or dangerous by the Environmental Protection Agency, they can be cleaned up with federal money but usually sit for years undeveloped — a waste of land because of sometimes valid fears.
But they are becoming prime pieces of property for solar farms. Just this past Friday, the largest solar farm on a Superfund site opened in South Bend, Ind., which is the home of Big Ten powerhouse Indiana University.
The 43-acre “Mayland” site covers part of the former 120-acre Reilly Tar & Chemical Corp. For years, the company refind coal tar and treated railroad ties. The solar farm array produces 8 MW of power which feeds into the Indianapolis Power and Light grid. The old company once located there used creosote, a chemical which thought to cause cancer. The plant closed in 1972 and was later scarred with the Superfund moniker.
Mayland isn’t the only one. Second in size and power is a 40-acre, 6-megawatt solar farm near Rancho Cordova, Calif. built on a Superfund site.
It’s win/win/ for power customers, investors and landowners. Wildlife can’t be harmed because typically nothing grows there anyway, and unused land now generates income. It’s a new market for possible other sites.
And there are plenty of them. The EPA has declared more than 1,300 sites in the U.S. as in need of “Superfund” cleanup. Many would sit unused. That seemed to be the destiny of the one in Indiana until a solar farm company developed it.