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A steel plant in Pueblo, Colorado, is using the power of the sun to turn recycled scrap metal into train rails.

“Colorado is known for several things. One is sunshine,” says David Ferryman of the Pueblo unit of EVRAZ North America, the company that owns the plant. “So it was really just an ideal place for a solar farm. And just made a lot of sense.”

He says globally, most steel is made in big, high-temperature blast furnaces, using iron ore and coal. That process generates a huge amount of carbon pollution, which increases global warming.

But in the U.S., the majority of steel is made from recycled scrap metal. That process can be powered by more efficient electric furnaces.

“From an environmental perspective, there’s much less carbon produced in electric arc furnaces versus blast furnaces,” Ferryman says.

But the process still uses a lot of electricity, which typically comes from burning fossil fuels.

So to reduce its climate impact, the Pueblo facility has turned to renewables. An onsite solar farm will now offset about 90% of the plant’s electricity use.

So it’s demonstrating one path toward a greener future for steel.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media and Jan Ellen Spiegel