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The Powerhouse at Beloit College features an indoor running track.

The Powerhouse at Beloit College features an indoor running track.

Photographer: Dane Rhys for Bloomberg Markets

The Surprisingly Stunning Afterlives of Old Coal Plants

As the U.S. moves toward greener electricity production, old coal-fired power stations are being repurposed for the new demands of a cleaner economy.


For environmentalists, climate change advocates, and ­public-health experts, the only good news on coal has been about the industry’s demise. Indeed, competition from cheaper natural gas, a boom in renewable energy, and tougher emissions regulations have forced coal-fired power plants across the U.S. to close. While some opponents of the coal industry might want to see these fossil fuel relics flattened and sent to the dump, there are efforts to ­redevelop and preserve these important historical sites. Here, we’ll show you some of the clever ways America’s coal infrastructure is being repurposed. With the use of tax credits and re­development grants, some dusty old plants are being turned into positive resources for the community.

One example is the Powerhouse (below), a decommissioned coal-fired power plant that was converted into a student union, recreation center, and athletics facility at Beloit College in Wisconsin. This summer the Powerhouse has hosted a mix of low-income, first-generation, and minority students as part of a program to help them prepare for applying to postgraduate programs at Ivy League universities.