Sparrows Point in Maryland was once the largest steel-producing plant in the world. The plant opened for business in 1887 and provided steel for girders of the Golden Gate, George Washington, and Bay Bridges, and for shipbuilding. It was closed in 2012.

Part of the shuttered mill is being put to use again. The United Steel Workers Union, Tradepoint Atlantic who owns the plant, and US Wind announced a partnership for Maryland’s first permanent steel and offshore wind fabrication facility in Sparrows Point. It will create 500 full-time union jobs for steelworkers and about 3500 construction jobs in support of US Wind’s clean energy projects.

This is just one example of how places can be repurposed for renewable energy and help in the race to mitigate climate change.

Europe’s largest utility company, Enel, which is headquartered in Rome, is in the process of shutting down its coal power plants and transforming the sites for new uses. According to Fabio Cautadella, the head of power plant repurposing at the Enel Group, “Most of the coal-fired plants are being converted to renewable energy, but in some cases, they are enjoying a new lease on life with completely different roles.” In collaboration with the local communities, the projects are undertaken with the goal of creating jobs and improving quality of life in the area.

In Spain, a former coal plant will be converted into Europe’s largest solar power plant. It will have extra wind power and battery storage that will more than replace the power that was generated by coal. Other sites will be transitioned to green hydrogen, extracted through processes powered by renewables.

These initiatives show that moving towards renewables doesn’t necessarily wreck local economies and cost valuable jobs. According to a recent study, we could add 8 million renewable energy sector jobs by 2050 by meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

There are currently about 18 million people working in global energy industries, extracting oil and coal, refining and producing energy, and manufacturing wind and solar systems. That could increase to 26 million by reaching the climate goals. If we don’t reach those goals, jobs would still increase, but only to 21 million.

People working in coal are rightfully fearful that a renewables future will decimate their personal economy and surrounding communities. Countries need to work towards retraining those workers for jobs that will serve them better moving forward. A federal investment of $15 billion in key areas of the rural new climate economy in the United States would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in those communities.

In the United States, manufacturing wind and solar energy systems and wind turbine production has been growing. At present, there are now more than 500 manufacturing facilities making wind turbine blades and towers and assembling turbines. US Wind is building an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland, using turbines made in Europe. The re-opening of the Sparrows Point Plant will bring those jobs back home.