Renewable energy developers are taking over retired coal plants

in July 30th, 2021

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With demand for renewable energy surging, developers have struggled to supply it. The main obstacle is finding enough transmission lines to actually get that energy to wherever people want it. Permits to build new lines are not easy to obtain and often met with opposition from local communities. Now, developers are investing in a new approach that removes these barriers: repurposing retired coal plants.

In fact, making use of the over 500 retired plants sitting idle nationwide reduces total project cost by 20%. Specifically, these plants allow renewable energy developers to:

  • Make use of an already built substation, which includes power lines that can be repurposed for transferring renewable energy.
  • Use existing water infrastructure. Previously used to cool coal-fired power equipment, the same setup can be used to cool nuclear reactors.
  • Often get access to a skilled workforce who can be easily retrained for renewable energy jobs.

One problem lurking in the background, though, is if America’s aging grid is even able to handle a mix of traditional and renewable energy. Updating the entire system is also complicated, given all electricity is run by private companies. To ensure our growing power needs are not sacrificed, President Biden hopes to build thousands of miles of power lines and move wind turbines and solar farms closer to cities and suburbs. Environmentalists, though, would prefer an investment in rooftop solar panels, batteries, and local wind turbines, which requires less new construction into pristine areas.

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