Windmill, Early Site Due Diligence

Greenfield Site Development: The Key Components of Early Site Due Diligence

April 3, 2024

By: Heather Patti

As the world moves towards a more sustainable future, the demand for renewable energy continues to grow. Industries such as solar, battery energy storage, and the offshore wind industry are at the forefront of this transition, seeking out undeveloped, or “greenfield” sites for their projects. Conducting early site due diligence is crucial for the success of these ventures, ensuring that environmental factors are carefully assessed and managed from the outset. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key 3 steps for conducting early site due diligence for greenfield projects and how boots-on-the-ground expertise leads to cost-efficient implementation and risk management. 

Why Early Site Due Diligence Matters 

Early site due diligence is not only a regulatory requirement but also a strategic investment for solar, battery energy storage and wind developers of greenfield sites. It ensures that projects are developed responsibly, minimizing environmental impacts, complying with regulations, managing costs, and engaging with communities effectively. By conducting thorough due diligence at the outset, we help our clients set the foundation for successful, sustainable, and long-term cost saving developments. There are three essential elements of early site due diligence for any new development project: Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments, Wetland Delineations, and Limited NEPA Reports.  

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) 

Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) are the backbone of the traditional environmental due diligence process to identify and quantify risks associated with complicated property histories and operations. Our experts conduct Phase I ESAs though on‐site reconnaissance with interviews of site owners and occupants as well as a visual reconnaissance of the surrounding areas to determine current uses of nearby properties. Our experienced team identifies and summarizes observed environmental conditions and risks on the site which may include hazardous dumping, pipelines, buildings, storage sites, or tanks. 

Wetland and Waterway Delineation 

Wetland and waterway delineation is the process of identifying and mapping the boundaries of aquatic resources in a particular area. Delineation is a critical step in our environmental assessments, land development projects, and regulatory compliance. Our scientists identify and delineate wetland and waterway areas using a multi-parameter approach which analyzes wetland hydrology, hydric soils, and hydrophytic vegetation. Our onsite teams map the boundaries of wetlands and waterways by handheld GPS unit technology. By accurately delineating wetland boundaries, we help clients ensure the protection and sustainable management of these ecosystems. 

Limited NEPA Report 

A Limited National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Report is a streamlined environmental review process generally following guidance from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). A Limited NEPA Report is a valuable tool to efficiently evaluate and document the environmental impacts of projects that fall within predetermined categories of actions with minimal effects. Our natural resource assessments provide initial desktop reviews of threatened and endangered (T&E) species/habitat and cultural resources based on available databases, followed up with onsite visit confirmations. Our NEPA reports include a permitting matrix and a review of the project against local, State, and Federal inventories and databases to assess permitting requirements. These requirements and regulations apply to surface water, wetlands, wetland soils, rare, threatened, and endangered species, and cultural, historical and archaeological areas of concern. 

Desktop vs. Boots on the Ground Support  

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments, Wetland Delineations, and Limited NEPA Reports together allow our clients to better understand their sites, helping them avoid natural and cultural resources and refine their energy targets. By performing this analysis early in the site development process with our boots-on-the-ground assessments, our clients avoid incurring the full costs of site re-design and minimize potential risks. Our custom services coupled with GIS mapping capabilities and technology allow for an accurate and cost-effective solution in one site visit.  

The limitations of desktop only site assessments include lack of site-specific information as desktop studies rely on existing data, which may not capture all site-specific conditions. There is also limited information available as detailed information such as soil composition or vegetation types may be limited or outdated. On the other hand, our boots-on-the-ground surveys which incorporate visual inspections, soil sampling and wetland delineation, offer more detailed assessments and site-specific information that validates desktop findings. We tell the story of the site before our clients move into the engineering phases of their project. 

How Montrose Can Partner with You 

We navigate early site due diligence with our highly trained multi-disciplinary scientists who provide holistic site assessments. Our scientists are skilled at assessing and addressing cultural, biological, aquatic, and Phase 1 issues. With our multi-disciplinary team, we can handle all aspects of early site due diligence internally and cost effectively – saving on travel costs, field time, and mobilization. 

Heather Patti
Senior Associate
With over two decades of experience, Heather is a highly skilled expert in the fields of botany, ecology, and renewable energy project support. Specializing in renewable energy project management, wetland delineation, expert witness testimony, rare species surveys, and ecological restoration, she has made significant contributions in her current role as a Senior Associate at Montrose. Throughout her career, Heather’s work has been pivotal in protecting and preserving natural habitats and managing wetland delineation projects. Heather holds a Master of Science (MS) degree in Botany and Ecology from North Carolina State University and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Biology and Chemistry from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

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