The US is putting enough solar to power 400,000 homes on old nuclear weapons sites

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The US Department of Energy (DOE) is going to repurpose sites previously used in the nuclear weapons program into solar farms.

DOE is negotiating leases with two developers for solar farms within the 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory (INL) nuclear site, in Idaho Falls. The plan is to produce 400 megawatts (MW) of solar power – enough to power 400,000 homes.

These are the first projects as part of the DOE’s Cleanup to Clean Energy initiative, launched in July 2023, in which portions of federal land previously used in the US nuclear weapons program will be repurposed into clean energy sites.

US Energy of Secretary Jennifer Granholm said, “Working closely with community leaders and private sector partners, we’re cleaning up land once used in our nuclear deterrence programs and deploying the clean energy solutions we need to help save the planet and strengthen our energy independence.”

DOE is negotiating with developers NorthRenew Energy Partners and Spitfire to build solar farms at the INL site.

Becket, Massachusetts-based solar developer NorthRenew Energy is anticipated to build a 300 MW solar farm and battery storage on around 2,000 acres of INL land. Developer Spitfire is expected to install a 100 MW solar farm with battery storage on 500 acres of INL land. No timeline has been identified yet by the DOE.

The next steps for the Cleanup to Clean Energy initiative are DOE-issued requests for qualifications (RFQs) to lease land at four additional sites: the Hanford site in Washington; the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico; the Nevada National Security Site in Nevada; and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. DOE will announce additional selections later in 2024. 

Read more: We’re closer to tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 than we look – IEA


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