Now that's progress...
Whether it's coal mines becoming solar farms or apiaries, we've seen plenty of examples of creative reuse when it comes to former fossil fuel production or generation assets.
The latest such idea comes from England, where The Guardian reports that the site of the former Rugeley coal-fired power plant will now play host to 2,000 energy efficient, solar-powered homes. Featuring rooftop, ground-mounted and even floating solar, battery storage, heat pumps, and other energy efficiency measures, the homes are projected to use about 1/3 less power than equivalent conventional buildings, and also get half of that power directly from on-site renewables.
What's perhaps most interesting is that this project is being developed directly by the power plant owner Engie, which seems to be positioning itself for a future where utilities aren't necessarily the centralized energy producers they once were. Here's how Wilfrid Petrie, Engie UK’s chief executive, describes their new strategy:
“We are positioning ourselves as going beyond energy into place-making. It’s an example of us closing down our coal power plant and, instead of selling off the land, we’ve decided to regenerate it ourselves.”
It's certainly an interesting move. And one to watch with interest. Companies like Engie have a large number of former coal plants on their hands now that the UK has moved so decisively toward lower carbon electricity, so developing new models for using these sites will be paramount. Whether or not a power company has either the culture or the expertise to successfully transition into 'place-making' remains to be seen, but I am delighted to see them try.