Penn State Will Close On-Campus Coal-Fired Steam Plant

One of the biggest universities in one of the U.S’s biggest coal-producing states finally announced that it will transition away from coal-fired power in the next three years.

Officials from Penn State Univeristy said the school will invest up to $35 million to convert its on-campus coal-fired steam plant to natural gas by 2014.

The plant is located in the heart of Penn State’s campus, where it produces steam heat for 270 buildings on campus. Officials said that by using natural gas rather than coal the school will lower its carbon emissions by 37 percent.

For over 18 months, PSU students have encouraged the school to get rid of the dirty coal-fired plant and become a clean energy example for the rest of the state.

When students learned the school was considering installing expensive coal scrubbers to meet new regulations their efforts became even more urgent as the expense of adding scrubbers would have locked the school into coal dependence for years to come, reports Sierra Club Student Coalition.

But, as students with Eco-Action point out, studies have shown that while natural gas creates less greenhouse gas than coal when burned, that doesn’t include factors such as the fossil fuels burned while developing wells, transporting gas and building pipelines.

The move from coal to natural gas is a big first step, but students are determined not to let it be the last. Eventually, students hope to see the university run entirely on renewable energy – including both the energy they produce on campus and the power they purchase from the electricity grid (Sierra Club).

PSU is the ninth university to pledge to end their coal use on campus since the Sierra Student Coalition started its national effort to move the nation’s universities entirely of coal-generated power. 

Related Reading:
Coal Use and CO2 Emissions Projected to Rise By More Than 50% By 2035
Victory! EPA Vetoes WV’s Largest Mountaintop Removal Mine
Don’t Drink The Water: Coal Industry Creates Third-World Conditions in United States Today

Image Credit: Sierra Student Coalition


Howard Evans
Howard Evans6 years ago

Jeffrey H, as someone who can read, I can say you have no idea what you're talking about. How many people have died over the last century in natural gas well cave-ins? How many mountains have had their top third dynamited and bull-dozed into a neighboring valley, permanently destroying two ecosystems, to pump natural gas?

Fracking can be and in many places is done responsibly. Coal kills when you mine it, kills when you burn it and – as the folks in Roane County, Tennessee can attest – has the capacity to kill long after it's gone.

Fracking must be be regulated to force the companies who do it to be responsible. But the simple fact is that renewable energy isn't ready to replace coal and oil yet, and won't be for several decades. Natural gas and nuclear energy are the bridge resources to a lower carbon near future and a renewable long term future.

Step one to that future is doing whatever’s necessary to eliminate coal and foreign oil from our energy mix.

You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. Right now, like the politicians owned by big coal and oil, you’re part of the problem.

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V6 years ago

way overdue in closing

Jeffrey H.
Jeffrey H.6 years ago

As a chemical engineering alumnus, I'd like to see clean, green, renewable power being used -- photovoltaic panels on every campus building rooftop, wind turbines on top of the hills, groundwater geothermal, etc. We need to quit burning -- Period!!
Penn State's engineering school should be able to come up with better solutions than burning fracked natural gas.
(But industry loves Penn State graduates because they don't think outside of the box.)

Burning dirty coal is being replaced by burning fracked natural gas. Not much of an improvement, if any.
(Polluted air, dead coal miners, ash disposal problems, and acid rain traded for polluted aquifers, streams, and rivers, toxic acid frack soup blowback "water disposal problems, increased cancer rates and birth defects, and polluted air.)

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

Thermal, would be better still.

Frances Bell
Frances Bell7 years ago

Kudos for moving away from coal, but really - gas? It's still a fossil fuel. If they can move to gas in 3 years, surely they could just as easily move to wind and solar?

Lin Moy
Lin M7 years ago

Gas is very expensive.. solar probably would be best for a place that big.

Jeremy T.
Jeremy T.7 years ago

Who cares, we are headed for a complete melt down. Scientist are suggesting that the increase in termpature is not linear. It is an exponential increase in warming. Black absorbs the suns rays more readily than a white surface as the snow and ice melts. It is going to mean the destruction of planet earth as we know it. I hope that I pass in my sleep and I am thankful that I never had children. I have studied this and we are in for a really bad future. We may just be the next extinct species to join the 654 species already destroyed due to climate related issues. I do not think that God created the planet to send mankind down here to destroy it. He must have a tear in his eye looking down seeing what mankind has done to one of his greatest creation....Lord have mercy on their souls.

Linda Jofery
Linda Jofery7 years ago

Coal is dirty energy - clean coal is a myth. The decision to go to renewable energy is a big step! Penn State should be Proud of its students for leading the charge in this!

Amber M.
Amber Beasley7 years ago

that's awesome!

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

noted :)