For decades, these power plants ran on coal. Now, they’re converting to clean energy

Read the full story at Fast Company.

For six decades, a coal power plant near Peoria, Illinois, belched black soot into the air, polluting nearby neighborhoods and racking up thousands of air quality violations. Like other coal plants, it was also a major contributor to climate change. But the plant will close by the end of this year. By 2025, it will become a battery storage facility for renewable energy.

The same transition to clean energy is happening at coal plants across the country. In Illinois alone, 11 plants will close over the next three years and be converted to solar farms or battery storage. In Louisiana, where a coal plant closed last year, a new solar farm is planned that could power 45,000 homes. In Hawaii, where the last-ever shipment of coal arrived in July, a huge battery storage facility is now being built with Tesla Megapack batteries near a former coal plant. In Virginia, a former coal plant may be replaced by a hydrogen plant. In Massachusetts, coal plants near the coast will soon connect with offshore wind power. In Minnesota, a 3,500-acre solar farm will soon be built next to a coal plant that is being shut down in phases. Other projects are underway in multiple states.

Coal plants have been steadily closing over the last two decades, driven largely by economics (though in Illinois, the Peoria plant closed after a lawsuit over its air pollution). More than 350—more than half of all the plants—have retired since 2010, or have plans to shut down. When plants stop running, reusing them for renewable energy is an obvious choice, says Andy Knott, the central region director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which works with grassroots activists to push for the transition. 

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