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Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
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Biomass Energy Decommissioning/Site Reclamation: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

Decommissioning and site reclamation activities include facility removal and site revegetation.

Decommissioning of a biomass energy project would include removal of buildings and foundations and the excavation and removal of buried components. Potentially hazardous materials in site facilities would be properly handled and removed for off-site disposal. Underground components would be removed to a depth of at least three feet to ensure an unobstructed root zone for revegetation. More deeply buried components might be abandoned in place. Following removal of these components, site reclamation and revegetation would mitigate some impacts, such as soil erosion, habitat fragmentation, and visual impacts.

The surface of a landfill would be revegetated when no more waste is buried. Gas would continue to be collected until such a time as the gas produced is no longer economic to recover; the wells would then be sealed and any surface equipment, such as pumps, removed.

When an algae pond is no longer required, it would be drained, the pumps and mechanical equipment would be removed, and the site would be returned to its original condition to the extent possible.

The following factors could affect whether an environmental impact could occur at a biomass energy facility and whether it would be considered an adverse effect.

  • Acreage — Virtually the entire land area of the biomass development would be impacted by decommissioning and deconstruction activities. Transmission lines would probably remain in place as part of the transmission grid. Otherwise, the components would be removed for disposal or recycling. Decommissioning of any pipelines would range from the removal of only the aboveground components to removal of the entire pipeline and ancillary components.
  • Emissions — Decommissioning and reclamation activities would produce fugitive dust emissions caused by vehicle traffic and the breaking up of concrete foundations, vehicular and equipment emissions, and volatile organic compounds from storage and the use of fuels for equipment.
  • Waste Generation — Solid and industrial wastes would be similar to those from construction: broken concrete, plant components, electronic equipment, and transformers. Potentially hazardous wastes would need to be properly handled and transported to licensed off-site facilities.
  • Water Needs — Water would be needed for dust suppression, fire-fighting, and potable supply for the workforce.
  • Workforce — Decommissioning and reclamation activities would require approximately one-half to two-thirds of the construction workforce for a period lasting about half as long as construction.