Henry S. Cole & Associates, Inc. Newsroom

Cole Pushes Solar Power for PA Superfund Site

October 22, 2008

Henry S Cole & Associates Environmental together with the Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE) are promoting a solar energy park for the future of the Occidental Superfund Site in Pottstown, PA. The site was used to dispose of industrial wastes from the facilities production of PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic) for many decades. We advocate a brighter future for the site -- located on the Schuylkill River floodplain.

Editorial Comment from The Mercury

October 13, 2008

Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Let's work together on renewable energy

President, Henry S. Cole & Associates Inc.

I am writing to respond to Mark Moore's letter of Oct. 1 which is unfortunately critical of a proposal by the Alliance for Clean Environment (ACE) to locate a solar electric (photovoltaic) system at the Oxy Superfund Site (Lower Pottsgrove). Moore's letter replied to The Mercury's excellent editorial on September 25 "Solar Park Proposal an Exciting Possibility."

Mark Moore's views are both short-sighted and narrow. He sees the PV project solely as a make-or-break venture and predicts that the system will fail financially.

First, we should view projects like the ACE proposal as critical investments that can spur the renewable energy industry a development that would create business opportunities and jobs in the area while also reducing our emissions of global warming gases and other harmful pollutants. To expand renewable use and boost a "renewable energy economy," Pennsylvania has created a $428.4 million "Alternative Energy Investment Fund." PV manufacturing companies have also invested heavily in Pennsylvania. For example,

  • AE Polysilicon, a large producer of silicon for solar cells (Fairless Hills) recently announced a new plant with 145 fulltime jobs and 60 plus contract/construction jobs for the area.
  • Solar Power Industries located in the Pittsburgh area manufactures a variety of photovoltaic products from solar cells to customized systems. The company is building two new facilities in the state.

Secondly, Moore fails to acknowledge that the PV industry has experienced major technological advances and rapidly declining costs in recent years. The rising costs of fossil-fuel and nuclear-based electricity are also helping to boost the demand for PV systems across the country. The Energy Information Administration reports that PV panel shipments to U.S. Users rose 50 percent from 2005 to 2006 (most recent data available). See http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/solarphotv/solarpv.html.

It makes good economic and environmental sense to boost renewable energy sources including PV power. The only question is whether the Pottstown area will be part of the action. One way to do so is to initiate projects such as a solar installation for the Oxy site.

All this said, Moore's letter contains several good ideas. The site's existing buildings or replacements could be used for commercial companies that use only the net amount of energy produced renewably. As Moore states, this will require highly energy efficient buildings coupled with renewable energy. The use of a roof-mounted "vacuum tube solar array" to provide for hot water and building heat to help achieve net-zero energy is another good idea. But let's make sure that any future business is both net-zero energy but also zero-pollution and zero-hazardous waste. The last thing that the Oxy site needs is a plant that generates more harmful pollutants and wastes.

Finally, we invite Mr. Moore to soften his adversarial tone (e.g. his dismissal of the PV proposal as "ideologically-driven environmentalism") and adopt a more collaborative spirit. There is no real conflict between his recommendations and a PV system for the Oxy Site. In fact they go together quite nicely.

The ACE proposal is not a final engineer's blue print, but a concept that invites additional suggestions from companies and individuals who want a brighter future for the Oxy Site and the Greater Pottstown area. Hopefully local, state and federal officials will provide the support and leadership needed to turn this vision into a reality. In the words of The Mercury editorial, "This is an idea to pursue and market for the benefit of all."

Henry S. Cole & Associates supports arsenic-free and chromium-free wood

October 3, 2008

Henry S. Cole & Associates provided scientific support to Chemical Specialties Incorporated / Viance (CSI).CSI was the first company to invest in an arsenic-free and chromium-free wood preservative. This preservative is called ACQ and contains copper and a widely used disinfectant known as Quat. In 2002, Cole was co-recipient of EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award with CSI, for his work in support of ACQ.

Cole Associates opposed the registration of Acid Copper Chromate (ACC) which contains highly toxic hexavalent chromium, a known human carcinogen (an agent linked to cancer). Cole and Associates worked closely with lobbying efforts of the Ferguson group- a Washington DC government affairs firm. Because ACC is cheaper than ACQ, its registration for residential purposes would have undercut ACQ's place in the market and introduced millions of pounds of hexavalent chromium into decks, fences, picnic tables, and playground equipment. CSI's ACQ is free of carcinogens.Henry S. Cole & Associates conducted extensive research and provided comments for CSI on EPA's docket. Dr. Cole also presented the technical case against ACC at several meetings with EPA officials. As EPA's announcement shows, EPA decided against registering hexavalent chromium-based ACC for residential purposes.

These comments and additional information on EPA's decision including comments from environmental organizations can be found on the Internet as follows:

1) www.regulations.gov.
2) Click on "advanced search" in the upper left corner, select "docket search"
3) Under Agency, select "Environmental Protection Agency"
4) For docket ID, enter "opp-2006-0606"
5) Click on submit (lower right-hand corner).
6) The docket number should come up (EPA-HQ-OPP-2006-0606).
7) To access the documents in this docket, click on the docket number.

What to do with the Occidental Chemical Superfund Site in Pottstown, PA

September, 2008

Dr. Henry S. Cole, President
Henry S. Cole & Associates Environmental, Inc.
Dr. Lewis Cuthbert, President
Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE)

What to do with the Occidental Chemical Superfund Site in Pottstown, PA. EPA’s recent cleanup decision limits the site’s future solely to industrial use. (For years Occidental large quantities of a vinyl chloride (a known human carcinogen) into the air; it also disposed of a great deal of industrial waste including hazardous chemicals into landfills and lagoons on its property on and adjacent to the Schuylkill River flood plain. The last thing needed here is another industrial polluter.

We have a better idea ­ one that fits the definition of industrial land use, but that would benefit the environment, area property values and the area’s image and economic future. Our idea is to turn the site into a solar energy park. This would involve covering portions of the site with an array of photovoltaic (solar electric / PV) panels. There are also cost-effective technologies that integrate photovoltaic cells into energy-saving “cool roofing” for commercial buildings such as the site’s warehouses.

Science fiction? Hardly. In fact there is a growing movement to turn Superfund and Brownfield sites into “Brightfield” sites. According to the US Department of Energy, PV systems built in the estimated acres of Brownfields could supply 90% of the nation’s current electricity. Many examples already exist:

  • 10,000 buried drums and contaminated soil were removed from the Picillo Pig Farm Superfund Site in Coventry, Rhode Island. Now New York-based Allco Renewable Energy Group will fill the 100-acre site with hundreds of solar panels ­ enough to generate 8 megawatts of electricity and power about 7,200 homes, making it the largest solar energy project east of the Mississippi.
  • Epuran and Exelon are collaborating on a solar energy plant in South Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Navy Yard that is expected to power 200 homes.
  • In nearby Bucks County Exelon Generating Company has committed to building one of the largest solar electric facilities in the nation ­ and it will do so using 16,500 solar panels on a buffer property located adjacent to Waste Management's GROWS Landfill in Falls Township. The project will cost between $16 million and $20 million to build and will generate 3 Megawatts of electricity.
  • In Brockton, MA a 425-kilowatt array of nearly 1400 solar panels were installed across 3 acres of the abandoned and contaminated Brockton Gas Works site. The Brockton PV project produces enough energy to power City Hall and meet a portion of the police station's energy demand. The City of Brockton received major grants from both Massachusetts and the U.S. Department of Energy to support the project.

The Brockton project also spurred further development of solar energy -- Solar Powered Condos. Each town house in Johnson Square Village, a 26-unit development being built on Foster Street, will have an 18-panel solar array that will harness the sun's energy to power TVs, computers, and other appliances. Solar power will provide more than half the needed electricity, saving condo owners hundreds of dollars every year. The $6 million project is located at a former shoe factory.

The “Brightfields” program, a U.S. Department of Energy initiative, specifically promotes the redevelopment of brownfields to use solar technology, clean energy, and produce revenue for the community. Solar energy technologies and photovoltaic systems are especially well-suited to application on brownfields sites. They require very little maintenance and can stand directly on the ground without penetrating the surface or disturbing any existing contamination.

Pennsylvania already has a growing number of companies and plants producing photovoltaics and other renewable energy systems. These include:

  • AE Polysilicon a large producer of high quality silicon for solar cells located in Fairless Hills. The company recently announced that its new facility will bring approximately 145 fulltime jobs and 60 plus contract/construction jobs to the community and surrounding areas over the next few years.
  • Solar Power Industries with state-of-the-art facilities in the Pittsburgh area manufactures a variety of photovoltaic products from solar cells, to finished modules and fully customized systems. The company is building two new facilities in order to take advantage of the rapidly rising demand for PV.

Furthermore, the state is investing substantially to make Pennsylvania one of the nation’s leading centers for solar energy. For example,

  • Governor Edward Rendell, in July, signed into law a program to invest $650 Million to help fund renewable energy projects in the state with nearly a third of the funding going to solar. Senator John Rafferty and Senator Andrew Dinniman supported solar power as a big winner in state funding initiatives for residents and businesses.
  • Enacted in 2007, the Pennsylvania Solar Initiative will provide production grants and consumer rebates to jumpstart the use of solar energy and attract solar manufacturing companies to the state.
  • Pennsylvania's portfolio standard requires that 18% of the electricity sold to retail electric customers come from eligible alternative and renewable energy sources by 2021. This requirement means that by 2021, another 850 megawatts of solar power will be generated in Pennsylvania.

We believe that our proposal for a PV installation at the Occidental site would have many positive benefits for the community and will help to promote Pennsylvania’s emerging renewable energy industry. A University of California Study showed that solar technology creates more jobs per megawatt of installed capacity than energy derived from fossil fuels (the last thing we need at the site). Installing a photovoltaic solar park at the Occidental site would help the Greater Pottstown area get its share of the growing renewable energy sector and the green jobs that it brings.

For all of these good reasons, we urge all parties ­ EPA, PA DEP, Occidental Chemical our elected officials to join with the PV industry to create a solar energy park at the Occidental site. Concerted, forward thinking leadership will be necessary to ensure that the Occidental Site’s future is brighter than it’s past.