Repurposed Coal Plant Sites Empower and Revive Communities: As New Rules to Protect Public Health Spur the Closure of Some 150 Coal-Fired Power Plants, Creative Site Redevelopment Projects Generate Civic Pride and Business Rather Than Dirty Power

By Staple, Gregory C.; Slavin, Matthew I. | The Public Manager, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Repurposed Coal Plant Sites Empower and Revive Communities: As New Rules to Protect Public Health Spur the Closure of Some 150 Coal-Fired Power Plants, Creative Site Redevelopment Projects Generate Civic Pride and Business Rather Than Dirty Power


Staple, Gregory C., Slavin, Matthew I., The Public Manager


Developers take note. Power plant repurposing projects around the nation highlight the compelling case for redevelopment and use of cleaner energy. These projects also offer points of reference for policy makers, public managers, business leaders, and community stakeholders to retire power plants in their localities by fostering enterprises focused on clean energy.

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Industry analysts predict that environmental and economic factors, including new federal regulations, will lead to the retirement of dozens of aging coal-fired power plants in the coming decade. Many old generating plants occupy strategic locations in urban areas, often with access to valuable waterfront. These sites present tremendous opportunities for new civic and private uses such as riverfront housing, shops, and offices, as well as museums, parks, and other community amenities.

Useful examples for redeveloping early 20th century power plant sites include an impressive large-scale redevelopment of the Seaholm Power Plant in Austin and the grand vision for redeveloping Station B in Sacramento by 2013. The Homan Square Power House in Chicago achieved a powerful fusion of mission and design. The redeveloped Pennsylvania Railroad Powerhouse in Queens, New York, and the Station L Power Plant in Portland, Oregon, exemplify a high degree of acumen. Pragmatism is on display in the reconstruction of the Chester Power Station near Philadelphia.

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Collaborative Site Cleanup and Redevelopment

In many cases, retired generating plants have been left abandoned for years or decades creating blight for local communities. Experience with previous redevelopments suggests that community leaders plan early for site reuse and adopt a collaborative approach that assures the involvement of all stakeholders, including incumbent utilities and power companies.

The approach should include

* clarity of vision

* a realistic business plan

* feasible financing mechanisms that can pay for site cleanup and redevelopment.

Capitalizing on these opportunities can help communities create a healthier environment, foster new business activity and job development, and bring retired power plant properties back onto tax rolls.

Electrifying America

Model power plant repurposing projects embody an ambitious vision. They wow with scale and revitalize whole neighborhoods and regions. They harness history for education and tell the remarkable story of how America was electrified.

Project designs also reflect community goals, aspirations, and civic pride. Early redevelopments often capitalized on preserving plant structures with significant historic and architectural value. However, the coming wave of coal plant retirements will include power stations that lack distinctive architectural legacy and might best be demolished. Whether the goal is to preserve significant buildings or to level undistinguished facilities and build anew, insights can be gleaned from analyzing what has been done before.

Power on the Potomac

Right outside Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, Virginia, is a 60-year-old, coal-fired power plant called the Potomac River Generating Station. It was originally constructed when cleaner generating fuels were unavailable and when other sources of electricity were inadequate. Now that the situation is quite different, an affiliate of the American Clean Skies Foundation, Potomac River Green LLC, has developed a plan to redevelop this 25-acre brownfield site into a sustainable mixed-use community embracing advanced clean energy and environmental technology and building techniques. One purpose is to provide an example of green development of old power plant sites next door to the nation's capital that other communities can emulate.

New federal regulations to protect public health are expected to spur the closure of more than 150 power plants nationwide. …

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Repurposed Coal Plant Sites Empower and Revive Communities: As New Rules to Protect Public Health Spur the Closure of Some 150 Coal-Fired Power Plants, Creative Site Redevelopment Projects Generate Civic Pride and Business Rather Than Dirty Power
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