Energy transitions can help move America toward renewable energy goals
VALMY, Nev. — Jan Morrison can see a lot of potential in the Valmy Coal Plant in Humboldt County, Nevada.
"It's going to be vibrant and it's going to be a vital part of our energy grid. It'll remain a vital part. So that's a win all the way," she said.
Morrison, the economic development officer at the plant, said it's the last of its kind in Nevada. However, it won't be burning coal for much longer. The plan is to turn the plant into a solar wind farm.
"It is miles and miles and miles of desert, so it's a perfect opportunity to develop solar fields," said Morrison.
According to Brookings, some existing fossil fuel infrastructure, like the Valmy Plant, happens to be right where the strongest potential for renewable energy generation lies. Another plus of transitioning existing infrastructure to renewables is that the connections are already there.
"What's really unique about the Valmy power plant is that it has the infrastructure on the Western grid. I mean, it is a major, major hub, and so when you look at all the investment into that, why would you let that go," said Morrison.
According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institure, in 2019, the nation saw the second highest number of coal plant closures. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that coal mining employment has dropped by more than half since 2012. Switching existing infrastructure to renewables can help save jobs, but for many communities, the switch is costly.
The billions of dollars in the infrastructure bill should bring about more incentives for these transitions, potentially allowing a majority of the 1.7 million people who work in fossil fuels to keep their jobs. As for Morrison, she’s excited that her community gets to be on the front lines of the transition to a greener future.
"The concept of renewable energy is very welcome out here," she said.