America’s reliance on coal energy is decreasing as the Environmental Protection Agency sets stricter pollution standards. Currently, the EPA’s goal is to cut thirty percent of national carbon emissions by 2030. This projected standard, along with the rise of alternative energies, will mark a clear shift in America’s energy consumption. The US Energy Information Administration… Read more »
America’s reliance on coal energy is decreasing as the Environmental Protection Agency sets stricter pollution standards. Currently, the EPA’s goal is to cut thirty percent of national carbon emissions by 2030. This projected standard, along with the rise of alternative energies, will mark a clear shift in America’s energy consumption.
The US Energy Information Administration found that 97 fewer megawatts of energy were produced by coal-fired generators from 2010 to 2012. Closures are expected to increase as natural gas becomes more affordable. These retired stations pose significant health, safety, and welfare concerns for their surrounding communities. Issues range from long-term water quality to the safety associated with large, unsupervised condemned sites.
Coal-fired power plant sites often occupy valuable real estate, including large swaths of undeveloped land along naturalistic waterways. Programming these sites as future amenities for their surrounding communities would ensure proper disposal of contaminates long after the stations are retired.
Many alternatives can be considered with these brownfield sites. Bioremediation efforts can repurpose retired plants into large parks with varying programs. The land can also be transformed by creating greenways that link surrounding communities, promoting connectivity. Retired sites have a rich history embedded in our nation’s industrialized culture and could potentially serve as educational opportunities for future generations.
The Potomac River Green project offers one innovative idea for redeveloping a retired coal-fired power plant site. Rezoning for the Potomac Power Plant in Alexandria, Virginia, is scheduled to take place by 2015. From the project’s web site:
“This mixed-use redevelopment concept for the site of the Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) is designed to provide a catalyst for a market-based solution to the plant’s retirement. The concept features extraordinary river access and open space amenities; includes hundreds of new riverfront housing units; greatly improves community connectivity to the city’s Old Town community; and, at the heart of the site, creates a world-class new energy center for the Washington region.”
In 2012 I had the opportunity to design a retired coal-fired power plant site as a part of an academic exercise. The project was primarily concerned with the urban form created on the site, and required retaining the power station’s physical characteristics. The rehabilitation of the brownfield examined the potential for developing a mixed-use commuter community along a railroad corridor; the one-hundred-ten-acre site served as a landmark along a naturalistic waterfront. The proposal gave the local community multiple civic and commercial amenities. Historic mixed-use development was designed to serve as a destination for various recreational activities. The proposed program also allowed for the power station to provide a suburban commuter transportation hub for the greater city.
Pursuing such plans for these retired power plants will render our communities safer and cleaner places to reside. Experimenting with solutions and possibilities for these future brownfield sites should begin today, in order to start fine-tuning our practice for the increasing number of retirees.
For more information on Potomac River Green, visit: http://www.potomacrivergreen.org/