Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

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Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (“ESA”) Report Guide for Solar Developers

A Phase I ESA, or Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, is considered the first step for environmental due diligence of a project site. SolRiver Capital wants developers and installers to understand why we require a Phase I ESA during the diligence process for you to secure an investment from us and the scope we typically require before you engage with an independent engineer. In this guide on the Phase I ESA, we discuss:

  1. What a Phase I ESA is;
  2. Why SolRiver requires it and when it is needed;
  3. The scope SolRiver requires; and
  4. Who can provide the service.

What is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?

A Phase I ESA, or Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, is a review of the site that, through (1) site inspection, (2) regulatory filings and historical documentation review, and (3) interviews with persons having knowledge of the site and its history, identifies potential environmental risks and/or any protected natural habitats associated with the site being surveyed. The Phase I ESA looks at both the underlying land and any physical improvements on the site. Typically, a Phase I ESA does not perform any chemical or soil testing on the site; however, if deemed necessary through the findings of the Phase I ESA, a Phase II ESA is then recommended by the consultant to perform these tests.

Why is the Phase I ESA needed and when do you need it by?

The Phase I ESA is critical in identifying any potential red flags requiring further investigation that could significantly slow the development of the project or stop it completely. Additionally, almost all Conditional Use Permits (“CUP”) require a Phase I ESA before the issuance of the permit. The Phase I ESA also gives the developer a clearer picture of what further environmental surveys may be required for the site. We require a Phase I ESA with reliance, meaning that certain parties can legally rely on the assessment, to provide a clear picture of the site’s condition for a solar facility development. The Phase I ESA must be dated within six (6) months of the NTP date but should be done as early as possible.

What is the required scope for a Phase I ESA?

Phase I ESA’s should be performed in accordance with the Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process published by ASTM International. The common scope of Phase I ESA’s includes, but is not limited to:

  • An on-site visit to survey present site conditions, hazardous substances, or petroleum products use, and to evaluate any likely environmentally hazardous site history;
  • An evaluation of neighboring properties and the risks they pose to the site;
  • A review of Federal, State, Local, and Tribal Records out to a specified distance, depending on the record in question;
  • Interviews with persons who have knowledge of the site and its history, typically the site owner;
  • A review of municipal and/or county planning documents to review prior land usage and permits granted;
  • A review of public agency documents regarding water quality and soil contamination issues at the site;
  • An examination of historical aerial images of the site and the surrounding area;
  • A review of the current USGS maps for drainage patterns and topography of the site; and
  • A review of the site’s title for any Environmental Liens and/or Activity and Land Use limitations (“AUL’s”).

A Phase I ESA typically does not detail any wetlands, threatened or endangered species, cultural resources, hazardous substance use on the site; however, a Phase I ESA can identify whether these additional surveys are recommended or required.

SolRiver Capital

SolRiver Capital is a solar investment fund dedicated to financing development, construction, and acquisition of small and mid-size utility-scale projects across the US.

Who can help prepare a Phase I ESA?

ECS Limited: