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This state is doing something wildly creative with its old coal power plants: 'A once-in-a-generation opportunity'

The plan can even create job openings in the affected communities.

Old Power Plants to Parklands Initiative

Photo Credit: iStock

Several coal-based power plants in Michigan are scheduled to close in the next few years, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center knows what to do with them. 

This environmental advocacy organization has introduced the Power Plants to Parklands Initiative to clean up the polluted sites for public use.

In 2022, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reached a deal with the state's largest energy provider, Consumers Energy, to end its use of coal plants by 2025 — a goal it previously planned to meet by 2040. This means that within a few years, several power plants in Michigan, including J.H. Campbell 1, 2, and 3 coal plants in West Olive, will be completely unused.

ELPC is eager to take advantage of what it calls "a once-in-a-generation opportunity." Their plan aims to convert the plants to a combination of parkland, wildlife refuges, and solar energy sources.

Parks and wildlife refuges make sense because coal plants have historically been built on the waterfront to supply water for power generation. These lake and river sites can be converted to beautiful beaches for public enjoyment or expand neighboring properties dedicated to the preservation of Michigan's natural fish and waterfowl.

Meanwhile, the former coal plants are also ideal sites for solar farms because they're already wired to the electrical grid. With the right setup of solar panels and battery storage, they could continue supplying power to the state — but this time in an affordable, clean way. This helps keep the cost of electricity low while reducing the amount of air and water pollution for state residents. 

The plan can even create job openings in the affected communities.

ELPC says the specific plans for each plant will be tailored to local needs and conditions at the site. 

"The tactics turn on the specific circumstances for each coal plant location," according to the P2P Initiative. "ELPC is engaging with Michigan utilities, community stakeholders, and policymakers to strategically analyze specific sites where the Power Plants to Parklands (P2P) vision could be especially effective."

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