Toronto Metropolitan University
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From Brown to bright - the development of renewable energy on marginalized land

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posted on 2021-05-23, 18:47 authored by Thierry Bernhard Spiess
Most post-industrialized countries are experiencing marked changes in the reutilization of land and the generation of electricity. On the one hand, the redevelopment of previously developed and potentially contaminated lands, so-called brownfields, has led to urban revitalization, rural wasteland recycling, as well as an increased protection of greenfields. On the other hand, the rapid growth of renewable energy installations has contributed to a more diverse, more distributed, and cleaner energy mix, albeit often on greenfield land. While brownfield redevelopment and ‘conventional’ green energy address land reuse and sustainable energy goals independently, brightfields could kill two birds with one stone. This nascent concept has thus far produced a scant amount of literature, regarding site typology, policy support and its barriers. This research addresses these significant gaps in the literature. The typology or former land use of existing brightfields is examined in an international context, finding that Canada has so far few ‘true’ brightfields, while the United States and Germany can boast hundreds of projects. The brightfields in the United States seem to have a ‘type, as the majority are located on landfills, while ex-military sites are the dominant former land use of so-called Konversionsflächen in Germany. The examination of technical, regulatory, financial and social barriers to the implementation of brightfields constitutes a large contribution to the literature. It provides a useful insight into the challenges to develop brightfields and shows that its barriers are not simply the sum of brownfields and renewable energy barriers. Lastly, this research finds that different types of brownfield owners may have different agendas and site selection priorities, which are not reflected in current site selection tools and a more context-dependent site identification tool is created using Analytical Hierarchy Process. This dissertation presents original research that contributes to the understanding of brightfields and its literature. It analyses brightfield typology and support in an international environment, their advantages and disadvantages, while also providing a practical tool for brownfield owners to identify and compare candidate sites. By doing so, this research provides a significant contribution to this emerging field of study.





  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Environmental Applied Science and Management

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • Dissertation