U.S. Department of Energy beckons clean energy development at Hanford
The U.S. Department of Energy is rolling out a new program to redevelop some of its lands into clean energy hubs – starting with the former nuclear Hanford site in southeast Washington state.
Many Energy officials flew in to meet with industry leaders and nearly 100 community members at the Federal Building in Richland in late September to discuss the new plan.
“As you saw on the maps as you were coming in there, this is a large contiguous area of land. It is, in fact, 30 square miles,” said David Turk, Deputy Secretary of Energy. “That’s a big piece of land. That’s not something that happens everyday for clean energy potential and clean energy development.”
The government is calling this new plan “Cleanup to Clean Energy,” but developing 30 square miles of sagebrush-dotted land into a power exporter and commercial zone – is complex. One man, Bill Kipnis a senior developer with Avangrid Renewables, of Portland, Oregon – that develops wind, solar and hydrogen projects – brought up water as a big need for many cutting-edge technologies:
“Anybody have a sort of high end evaluation of water availability on the site?” Kipnis asked the panel of DOE officials.
The crowd laughed as one of the panelists, Brian Harkins, Hanford Site Assistant Manager for Mission Support, sighed audibly. “Next question,” the moderator Ingrid Kolb, director of DOE’s Office of Management and Chief Sustainability Officer, said.
Turk also made the point that Hanford is an area that has been intensely studied and monitored over decades.
“We have lots of data,” Turk says. “So, we can hopefully work with you. We can speed up on the environmental side. Do it the right way, of course. Do the cultural work that we need to do and should do – but we’ve already done a lot of work. So, that gives us a head start here.”
Some energy developers in the crowd had some tough questions for DOE, including: How would permitting for these projects dovetail into the needed federal permits and reviews? Would DOE be open to industrial projects that use clean energy like steel, chemicals and electrofuels?
Another question, could wind power be used on the site – or would the vibrations disrupt the work at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, at Hanford?
Sandra Haynes, chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities, said there would be a need for education in this new workforce.
“You’ve mentioned the Tribes, but we also have a very large Hispanic population here as well,” Haynes said. “My question revolves around the DOE’s support around educating that new workforce. There is gonna be a ton of education needed, and the education that’s provided has the potential to really increase social mobility for especially underserved populations.”
Jeremiah Baumann, Chief of Staff, DOE Office of the Undersecretary for Infrastructure, said contractors would be asked to help with workforce training.
Brian Cunnington, energy and professional services manager with Energy Northwest, a nuclear power generation company based in Richland, said the major issue would be moving the electrons out of Hanford – “... transmission is going to be an extremely important part of this.” He said the company would be looking for new partners to get power on the larger grid.
To build at Hanford, the Energy department will have to consider Tribal nations, as well as a legacy of radioactive waste and future cleanup needs.
Near the end of the meeting, Laurene Contreras, program manager for Yakama Nation’s Environmental Restoration and Waste Management, talked to the Energy managers and the crowd.
“I was just wondering if the Department of Energy Indian Energy Policy Programs will be able to be made available? Or will there be representatives that are able to come out and meet with the Yakama Nation and have further conversation?”
DOE officials said yes, the office would be able to come and work with Yakama Nation – they offer no-cost technical assistance, grants for technical assistance and grants for project development. There is also a tribal loan program for energy projects, as well, they said.
DOE says input on the plan can be sent to EMCleanEnergy@em.doe.gov by 4 p.m. Oct. 12. Updates will be posted to https://www.energy.gov/em/em-clean-energy-land-reuse.