Baltimore redeveloped site
The Pratt Street Power Plant, a historic former power plant located in downtown Baltimore, Md. (Photo credit: John Phelan / Wikimedia)

Closing a coal-fired power plant is good for the climate, but it can be hard for the local community. People lose jobs, the city loses tax revenue, and a huge building may be left sitting empty.

“I don’t think people really understand how much it can impact the economy, the psychology, the culture, and the society within a coal plant community,” says Bill Schleizer, CEO of the Delta Institute.

The institute is a nonprofit that helps communities plan how to redevelop former coal plant sites.

The process can entail costly environmental cleanup, and it’s not always easy to find a new use for the property.

“It’s really tricky, and I think there is no one answer,” Schleizer says.

But some communities have found success. For example, in Lansing, Michigan, an old power station is now the headquarters of a large insurance company that’s a major employer in the city.

In Baltimore, a retired plant now houses a Barnes and Noble and a Hard Rock Café, and a coal facility in Chicago was redeveloped as a mixed-use housing development and charter school.

But many retired coal plants still sit vacant. Others have been demolished and the land left unused. So there’s a lot more to be done to help communities transition to a coal-free future.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.