"Who is TerraNavigator?"

 June 25, 2018


On contaminated sites where environmental restrictions are too great to allow other types of development, or on underutilized properties that have little prospect of attracting a developer, there are often few options available to the owner. Though prospects may appear dismal, these types of properties are prime real estate for solar development.

You may have heard of brownfield sites referred to as “real estate with an environmental personality.” That’s how we like to think of it. If you’re new to the field or perhaps just wondering whose webpage you have arrived at, we’d like to make a proper introduction. Let’s go over a few key points about who TerraNavigator is and what we do as a company.

Who We Are

Starting Small

Founded in 2017, TerraNavigator is a start-up renewable energy firm focused on beneficial reuse and redevelopment. We started out implementing renewable energy solutions on environmentally impacted properties, such as closed landfills and other brownfield sites, as well as Superfund sites. As we expanded our company, we broadened our reach to include solutions for underutilized and surplus lands that may hold value for landowners through new uses.

Growing Our Team

While TerraNavigator is a young company, our sister company, ProjectNavigator, has been providing environmental services to owners and stakeholders as well as managing environmentally impacted and surplus properties for over 20 years. ProjectNavigator was founded to oversee multi-party environmental clean-up projects, and their experience in environmental remediation and multi-party administration provides us with valuable support for our larger ventures.

TerraNavigator is designed to be customer-centric and solutions-focused, which allows us to work with corporations, municipalities, and private owners to turn environmentally challenged properties into assets. Our team currently has over 85 years of combined experience working for leading energy companies including Unocal, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Marathon Petroleum, NRG, Sempra, PacifiCorp, SDG&E, and Swinerton. Collectively, we have over $15 billion in transaction experience developing energy assets such as wind, solar, pipelines, energy storage, hydro, transmission, natural gas, and geothermal, both domestically and internationally.

What We Do

From Worthless to Worthwhile

TerraNavigator offers alternatives and positivity to situations that are often largely negative for landowners. The owners of these sites hold responsibility from a financial perspective and, if contamination is a factor, in terms of liability. When owners wish to convert their liabilities into sustainable assets, or when they simply want to redevelop their underutilized or surplus properties, we contact investors who share our interest in land revitalization and renewable energy. With the help of our investors, we secure the capital needed to work on a site, and the investors earn a return throughout the life of the project.

For instance, an impact investor seeking to deploy investment capital in an alternative investment space may find solar on a brownfield site to be an attractive investment for several reasons, including carbon footprint reduction, beneficial reuse of the property, and economic substance from a 35-year annuity.

Liability is a major factor in the potential reuse of brownfield sites. Unlike banks, our investors are willing to take the risk of investing in contaminated properties. Part of our niche at TerraNavigator is our familiarity and experience in navigating environmental situations, and we like to think of these properties not as “contaminated” but simply as “environmentally challenged.”

Environmental Advocates

Environmental stewardship is at the core of our company’s values. We’re a group of science-minded businesspeople who believe we are doing the right thing by cleaning up contaminated sites and replacing idle properties with new, economically viable uses. Beneficial reuse of environmentally-impacted sites can provide lower-cost electricity for the local community, an annual income stream for the property owner, the resolution of a property that was once a liability, and a return on investment for those willing to invest capital in renewable energy projects on underutilized lands.

Let’s make things more concrete with an example. Picture a former manufacturing plant on the edge of town that has been closed for a number of years. A chain-link fence surrounds the property, which consists of neglected buildings and pavement cracked with age. The company that leased the site may have hit hard times and gone bankrupt, perhaps leaving the town as the owner of the old plant. Due to certain levels of contamination present on the property, it has been classified as a brownfield site and has remained vacant for some time due to actual or perceived environmental risk.

Recently, the town received a grant to help offset some of the cost of cleaning up the contaminated site for future industrial or commercial use. At the end of remediation, they received a “No Further Action” from the environmental agency, indicating that the site had been remediated to a specific standard. This type of certification confirms that the site is now ready for redevelopment, provided that the town agrees to certain land use restrictions. For example, the town may need to promise that the site’s groundwater will not be used for drinking water, that there will be no digging below two feet, and/or that the site will only be used for non-residential purposes.

Since the end of remediation and receiving the “No Further Action,” the town has been unsuccessful in its attempts to find a developer interested in redeveloping the site, likely due to the use restrictions. While the restrictions are put in place to keep people safe, they significantly lower the site’s chances of being redeveloped. While the property sits vacant, the town is still required to perform normal maintenance and monitoring of the site, including everything from mowing the grass to monitoring the groundwater. Even if the site’s property taxes have been waived due to the town’s ownership of the site, the property is still a cash sink and a stigma for the town.

Though most developers might steer clear of this property, TerraNavigator may have an interest in a site such as this. Where the town only saw a money pit and a liability, we would see the site’s natural capital as a potential asset. Like most former industrial sites, it is likely located near electric distribution lines, which presents a potential opportunity for a renewable energy redevelopment project on the property. Because of the small footprint of the site, wind energy is not feasible, but there is ample space to place solar arrays to generate clean electricity for the town.

After working with the local utility to understand the interconnect costs and executing a lease agreement with the town, TerraNavigator finances the construction of the project. Additionally, we undertake responsibility for vegetative maintenance and site security. Now, the town is no longer paying upkeep costs and is even generating annual revenue from lease payments. Further, if the town chooses to subscribe to the electricity produced on the site, it may be available to them at below-market prices through incentives paid for by the utility. Production of clean and renewable energy is now a point of pride for the city, which may help to achieve some of their sustainability goals. Businesses in town and perhaps even a group of residents may also be subscribing to the clean energy. In fact, this initial investment in renewable energy may spur further development of this specific property or similar others that require redevelopment.

Sustainable Solutions

Our aim at TerraNavigator is to create value on properties that have been environmentally impacted and subsequently neglected. Sometimes, however, it becomes clear that a brownfield or surplus site has potential for traditional development that can be completed around its use restrictions. When there is a higher and better use for the site, we seek to bring it to its fullest potential. Better use of a property is an important consideration. In these instances, we may agree to perform a small part of the redevelopment before handing off the project to others who can provide a higher use for the site, such as recreational areas, desirable residential or commercial space, or a new industrial use that creates important jobs and taxes for the town.

However, for our fictional former manufacturing plant, recall that options were highly limited. Little could be built on the site due to use restrictions, and it’s important to remember that the site was not cleared for residential use. Adding a renewable energy use to the site allowed it to be put to beneficial reuse by generating extra electricity for the town. And not only could the local government now boast about their use of clean energy, as well as the revitalization of a contaminated brownfield site, but additionally, they could supply the newly-generated electricity at a cost lower than market price.

We take pride in the way we do business. TerraNavigator is a solutions-oriented company, and we seek to provide results that have exceptional value for all stakeholders – not only the parties directly involved in our projects, but also those in the surrounding communities. We always give preference to a local contracting approach, believing that it is more efficient and beneficial to the community to select qualified local contractors and partners to assist with project development and operations. We take a collaborative approach with our customers, addressing the unique challenges of each project while balancing energy, ecology, and economy at no cost to the landowner. Our transparent approach creates a rare win-win for all parties involved.

For a free consultation on your brownfield or underutilized property, please call (858) 263-2889 or contact us through our website.