Over 300 coal-fired power plants in the US have stopping burning coal over the past decade. Only about 224 plants still produce power by burning coal. As a result, a new sort of recycling industry is taking shape: repurposing of coal plants.
Across the country, utilities are finding ways to redevelop these facilities. Some are industrial in nature and others a far cry from their original purpose.
In January, Beloit College in Wisconsin opened a student union and recreation center in what used to be an Alliant Energy coal-fired power plant. On the southern coast of Massachusetts, a shuttered 1,600 MW coal plant is being demolished to make way for a logistical port and support center for a planned wind farm 35 miles off shore.
In Independence, Missouri, the city is considering competing plans to recycle the Blue Valley Power plant. It may become a 50 MW battery storage facility, or possibly a biofuel plant.
Another popular reuse strategy is data centers. Data centers use tremendous amounts of power and therefore can make use of the former coal plants’ capacity to handle large amounts of electricity.
Retired coal-fired plants have built-in infrastructure and components that can be repurposed for new industry. The plants typically have access to rail, ports and waterways, as well as proximity to good highway transportation. The electrical grids to which they are connected can be reused for solar or wind farms at the site.
Given that coal plants are continuing to close, the potential to redevelop them in various ways continues to grow as well. There is a surge in interest in coal plant redevelopment because these facilities are assets of value.
Coal-fired power plants finding new uses as data centers, clean energy hubs
Photo, posted January 10, 2017, courtesy of Rusty Clark via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
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