In a Twist, Old Coal Plants Help Deliver Renewable Power. Here’s How.


Across the country, aging and defunct coal-burning power plants are getting new lives as solar, battery and other renewable energy projects, partly because they have a decades-old feature that has become increasingly valuable: They are already wired into the power grid. Read more here: In a Twist, Old Coal Plants Help Deliver Renewable Power. Here’s How.

Key Takeaways:

  • The miles of high-tension wires and towers needed to connect power plants to customers can be costly, time consuming and controversial to build from scratch. So solar and other projects are avoiding regulatory hassles, and potentially speeding up the transition to renewable energy, by plugging into the unused connections left behind.
  • Over the past two decades, more than 600 coal-burning generators totaling about 85 gigawatts of generating capacity have retired, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • In addition to the connectivity, reusing the old coal plants is an effort to reinvest in the communities that have lost the coal plants in the first place, though it likely would not replace all of the jobs lost.
  • Coal plants also typically sit on a sizable parcel of land, and redeveloping those sites into renewable energy projects is a way to put something productive on a piece of property that might otherwise go unused.

Path to 100% Perspective

One of the most important keys to a 100% renewable energy future is the retirement of coal-fired power plants while investing in other sources like wind and solar. This is the perfect synergy needed to advance the transition and it is very symbolic as well. Using the existing resources and connections is an effective way to overcome some of the obstacles faced by clean energy producers.