Resources for Sustainability: Mapping Coal’s Decline and Renewables’ Rise

Resources for Sustainability: Mapping Coal’s Decline and Renewables’ Rise

Amongst fossil fuel technologies used for energy generation, coal-fired power plants are continuing to lose viability amidst improving renewable technologies, market conditions, and more.

Team Gemini pursues projects based on the understanding that a variety of technologies are ultimately needed to provide a fully closed-loop, sustainable model. No single renewable energy technology can meet all sustainability demands, and the same is true for fossil fuel alternatives.

However, the cons of fossil fuels are continuing to outweigh the pros, certainly when compared to a variety of improving and new sustainability technologies that can be combined. Wind and solar, while very specific in their use, continue to make strides in energy generation potential. This is due to cheaper and more efficient technologies, policy initiatives and incentives, reducing cost impacts of pollution, and more.

This entry in Team Gemini’s ongoing “Resources for Sustainability” series will highlight how coal-fired power plants are projected to decline in the years to come, based on certain variables and when compared with wind and solar power alternatives. While this interactive model provides useful interpretations, it doesn’t factor in the plentiful bio-based sources for generating energy with highly efficient CHP technology, among other things.

The CoalMap was released by MIT graduate students and the MIT Energy Initiative. The CoalMap online tool shows what policy regulations and technological advancements can do for the cost-competitiveness of solar and wind energy:

  • Users view CoalMap as a map of the continental United States showing the locations of current coal plants, with markers indicating each plant’s nameplate capacity and relative cost. As users apply different carbon prices, deployment subsidies, and rates of cost decline for solar and wind, they can observe the effects of these changes on the cost-competitiveness of renewable energy across the country.
  • If levelized costs continue to decline as solar and wind technology improves, both will catch up to coal in terms of cost-competitiveness in the coming decades. The effect is even more staggering if a carbon price is implemented.
  • [It should be emphasized that] CoalMap uses just one metric — levelized cost of electricity in $/kWh — and that coal plants can run continuously, independent of time of day, while wind and solar are intermittent generation sources, making direct comparison between the technologies difficult. Even so, CoalMap can help people visualize a low-carbon future, instilling in them “intuition about the importance of continuing to innovate in solar and wind and setting a price on carbon.”

Supporting and developing a closed-loop, 100%-sustainable infrastructure is among Team Gemini’s primary endeavors. Many technologies ultimately contribute to this goal, including the appropriation of waste as a source for (electric and thermal) energy production, in addition to valuable commodities like biofuels, fertilizer, compost, ammonia and ammonia-salt, and more.

Additionally, Team Gemini closely examines and implements methods of minimizing or even eliminating any pollution and environmental impacts (including Carbon Dioxide capture and separation, and crystallizing acids for high-value fertilizers, as well as conversion of CO2 into fuel products), as well as protecting and treating valuable water resources and implementing sustainable agriculture.

Feel free to explore more topics on our Resources page, or contact us if you’d like to recommend others.

For a full listing of Team Gemini sustainability tools and resources, please visit our resources page at