It is no secret that -fired power plants are making their way towards extinction. Compared to and wind power plants, coal-fired plants are not only inferior, they now are projected to cost more to run than wind and solar plants by the year 2025. If getting rid of coal-fired power plants and replacing them with solar and clean alternatives was not already a priority, it will be now. Vibrant Clean Energy and Energy Innovation released a report in March of 2019, highlighting that the  has begun, meaning that existing coal plants are becoming more and more expensive to operate, while solar and clean energy alternatives are becoming more affordable. 

Coal Emission Statistics from 2018 

Last year, greenhouse gas emissions were at an all-time high, with more than 33.1 billion tons of gas emissions being released into the atmosphere in total. This particular fact has many scientists and experts in the field unnerved. It seems that as we have made collective efforts to increase production and utility, have only increased. Michael Mehling, the deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research in Massachusetts, told the Washington Post that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions is “very worrisome,” and despite the fact that there has been some progress in the solar and renewable energy realms worldwide, efforts thus far, “remain woefully inadequate.” 

Making the Switch from Coal to Solar 

According to the report on coal-cost crossover, if 74 percent of the current coal power plants were replaced with solar and wind energy plants today, customers would see savings start immediately on their monthly utility bills. By 2025, this number could grow to as much as 86 percent. The problem is, deconstructing a coal plant and reconstructing a new solar or wind plant in its place is no easy or small feat. Particularly for those living in the Midwest and the Southeast, the impact of a transition from coal-powered utility to solar-powered may prove to be jarring. In the Southeast region of the country, for example, nearly all of the coal plants are substantially at risk for closure and replacement by solar plants by 2025. This does not leave a lot of time for coal workers and others in the field to make the transition themselves to alternative careers in the energy or solar industries. Additionally, lawmakers, investors, and stakeholders will need to move methodically in order to make the transitions from coal to solar as smooth as possible. 

The increase in greenhouse gas emissions seen last year is a discouraging blow to those heavily involved in the solar energy industry. The transition from coal to solar energy needs to happen now, and in the next several years, we can expect to see coal plants replaced with solar and wind solar sites. It has long since been rationalized that coal power plants have been kept around because they are cheaper to run than solar plants. This is no longer becoming the norm and will eventually be an obsolete idea entirely based on the statistical trends of solar energy implementation and cost we are now seeing. 

Coal manufacturers and site owners should take heed of the multiple warnings and reports released by experts in the solar energy field this year alone, detailing the impending coal to solar switch that is bound to take place in the United States and worldwide. Those working in coal manufacturing should prepare for the very real possibility that coal jobs will disappear entirely within the next decade or so and be replaced with solar energy jobs.  

In order for the switch from coal to solar to happen effectively, systematic and methodical closures will be necessary. Closing a coal plant is not like closing a retail store or a restaurant. There are multiple steps and conscious efforts that will need to be taken in order to maintain energy generation of some sort while a solar plant is being constructed. Although replacing coal plants with solar plants will ultimately benefit the surrounding communities and solar energy consumers, the road there may not be easy.  

Resources: 

https://energyinnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Coal-Cost-Crossover_Energy-Innovation_VCE_FINAL.pdf 

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25032019/coal-energy-costs-analysis-wind-solar-power-cheaper-ohio-valley-southeast-colorado 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/03/26/blow-climate-coal-plants-emitted-more-than-ever/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.045583588aba 

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