Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adaptive Reuse of Coal Plants

I’ve been on the road this week, as my lack of consistent posts indicates, and I spent a couple of days in coal country. I flew from Memphis to Pittsburgh and the pilot took the plane up the Ohio River. It was a beautiful stretch, but I was particularly struck by how many coal-fired power plants lined the river. This is no surprise because Kentucky and Ohio are big time coal country. I believe next door to most of them were natural gas fired-plants. I make this assumption because the coal plants were belching white smoke while the (presumably) natgas plants were quiet. This makes sense in the shoulder season when electricity demand is relatively low.

As I watched a plume of smoke turn into a cloud that floated over the river, I thought of the chemicals in that cloud and how I wouldn’t want that cloud to hover over my house (or the source for my drinking water). I briefly envisioned a world without coal-powered electricity but realized that would never come to fruition. (As I’ve said before, I believe in a “portfolio solution” to our energy future where many fuels power the future, but sometimes I get a little rah-rah about natural gas at the expense of coal.)

Today I found myself reading Metropolis Magazine, a design mag targeting architects. There was an interesting article about a former coal-fired plant in South Africa that had been turned into office and public space. It got me thinking about all of those plants I saw with those wonderful river views. Sure they will be horrific brownfield sites if they are shut down, but they sure would make great adaptive reuses into office, retail, residential and public spaces.

A guy can dream.

No comments: