All across the country, old and unused coal plants are being used for solar and other renewable energy projects because they are already wired into the power grid.
Already being wired into the power grid makes them an incredibly valuable and smart place to create renewable energy. Usually, for renewable energy sources, miles of high-tension wires and towers need to be placed and connected so that the energy can reach consumers. However, this can be expensive, time-consuming, and hard to build from the ground up.
According to a piece by The New York Times, in Illinois, at least nine coal-burning plants are already on track to become solar farms and battery storage facilities within the next three years. Projects in other states, including Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Maryland, are also taking advantage of these sites for renewable energy. On the coast, in Massachusetts and New Jersey, two old coal plants on the coast are being repurposed to connect offshore wind turbines to the regional electrical grids.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over 600 coal-burning generators have retired. This is amazing news and The New York Times reported that a majority of the 266 remaining coal-burning power plants were built in the 70s and 80s, meaning they’re nearing the end of their estimated 50-year operational period. This could mean a fresh start and finally get us another step away from fossil fuels.
Most of that retired capacity will not be replaced with coal, as the industry gets squeezed out by cheaper renewable energy and tougher emissions regulations. At the same time, renewable energy producers are facing obstacles in getting their projects connected to the grid. Building new power lines is costly and controversial as neighbors often oppose transmission lines that can disturb scenic vistas or potentially reduce property values nearby. In addition, getting power-line projects approved by regulators can be time-consuming.
A Texas-based power generation company, Vistra Corp., owns many plants in California and Texas. They said they will spend $550 million to turn at least 9 of their plants into sites for solar and battery storage. The largest plant from the company, in Baldwin, Illinois, will retire in 2025 and get 190,000 solar panels on 500 acres of land. The power generated from this could produce enough energy for 13,600 and 34,000 homes, depending on the time of the year.
Scientists have been warning for years about the dangers of burning fossil fuels like coal. There are devastating consequences to the environment and the air we breathe. These solar farms will be a step in the right direction of moving away from fossil fuels and towards a sustainable and renewable future! Sign this petition to stop the expansion of the polluting coal industry!
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