Pennsylvania aims to redevelop coal plant brownfields

Aug. 12, 2019
State is promoting its playbook for how to transition a site

A few weeks ago I reported on the closing of a GE natural gas power plant in California. Reuters reported that the site will be sold to a company producing battery storage, a growing need as wind and solar power production increases.

Similarly, it seems that as coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania close, the state is looking for a way to revitalize these brownfields and bring opportunities to its communities by redeveloping these sites. An Energy News Network article titled “Pennsylvania promotes playbook for redeveloping former coal plant sites,” by Marie Cusick, explains that state officials have developed a playbook to guide investors looking to develop at brownfields throughout the state.

“The state economic development department recently used a grant from the federal POWER initiative to develop a series of plans to help speed the decommissioning and redevelopment of coal-fired power plants,” Cusick explains in the article.

Fourteen plants have been decommissioned in Pennsylvania since 2005, Cusick reports.

Transformation has already begun in the state, with the former Sunbury Generation Plant, which lies along the Susquehanna River 50 miles north of Harrisburg. The site has been partially redeveloped, and now features a 1,124-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant. The state’s playbook suggests including a solar farm, data center and another natural gas plant on the untransformed portion of the site, Cusick reports.

The state’s playbook offers several recommendations for other sites to make redevelopment. In Washington County, the state suggests that the Mitchell Power Station, an 856-acre site that sits on the Monongahela River, be used for chemical or plastics manufacturing. Additionally, Exelon’s Cromby Generating Station is recommended for light industry by the state’s redevelopment playbook.

The main goal of the state’s playbook is to streamline redevelopment, according to David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association.

“If a potential investor is interested in a site, that person would have to use time, money and travel to find this information. It’s a sign of leadership for the state government to have this ready,” he said in the Energy News article.

Each brownfield will offer its own challenges and opportunities, but considering that all of the infrastructure, like rail access, road networks and transmission lines, is already in place, and that the state has this playbook of recommendations for these sites, let’s hope these sites will be able to bring new jobs to locals who have been left high and dry by the closing of these former coal plants.

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