In Michigan and across the Midwest, coal plants are shutting down, often without clear plans for what will happen to these sites next. Sometimes, they sit indefinitely as fenced-off brownfields along rivers and lakes. However, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity here to clean up and transition former coal plant sites into public park lands, solar energy generation, and energy storage development projects.
Coal plants were historically sited on lakes and rivers because of their massive water needs, and they have left legacies of pollution that must be cleaned up to protect public health. By reclaiming these sites for public use, we can protect water resources, expand natural ecosystems, and spur recreational opportunities.
There’s an additional win-win opportunity here too. These former coal plant sites are hardwired into the energy grid, offering valuable infrastructure for renewable energy redevelopment. Building solar energy generation with battery storage on the parts of the sites that are tied to the energy grid provides additional community value including installation jobs and local tax revenue.
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. We are developing solutions for P2P conversions that can protect drinking water resources, add significant parklands and beaches, expand adjacent protected wildlife refuges, and provide grid-connected large-scale solar and energy storage resources that also create jobs and provide local property taxes. While ELPC’s overall strategic framing is consistent, the tactics turn on the specific circumstances for each coal plant location. It’s not “one size fits all.”
ELPC is working with partners to seize the opportunities in Michigan and create benefits for generations to come. We are focused on 4-5 coal plants that are slated for closure or have recently closed. For example, Consumers Energy’s J.H. Campbell 1, 2 & 3 coal plants in West Olive will be shut down by 2025. As this project moves forward, the ELPC team will continue to build partnerships and engage Michigan communities to transform this polluting coal plant legacy into a stronger and healthier future.