Not only is clean energy on its way in, coal plants are on their way out. This week the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal project celebrated the announcement that the 200th coal plant has shut down since 2010. That may not sound significant, but 200 out of 535 US coal plants is a big deal, since it equates to 40 percent of production. It is also a sign that we are closer than ever to making clean energy the norm.
It is estimated that this year alone, 12,300 megawatts of coal energy will be shut down. Between 2012 and 2022, a total of 46,00 megawatts of production are expected to retire, paving the way for more sustainable forms of energy. The Beyond Coal project has been very active in its role of documenting coal production and pushing for reform. They explain why the shut-downs are so important, “In 2009, the pollution from the 200 coal plants now slated for retirement caused 6,000 heart attacks, 60,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 deaths each year. The plants emitted more than 188 million metric tons of carbon pollution, equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 39 million passenger vehicles. The coal plants also emitted more than 7,600 pounds of mercury each year. Mercury, a potent neurotoxin, contributes to thousands of birth defects and neurological disorders, putting communities surrounding coal plants at higher risk.”
The 200-plant milestone was reached by Alliant Energy, a utility company in Iowa, which announced it would be retiring six plants and retrofitting two. Unbeknownst to many, Iowa is actually a leader in clean energy, soon predicted to harness 40 percent of its electricity from wind power. Reaching this point with such fervor and speed surely shows how getting closer to 100 percent clean energy in the US may not be very far off.