Wednesday, July 26, 2023
From coal to the sun: Huge solar-energy project is planned for a huge reclaimed strip mine in Eastern Kentucky
|The reclaimed mine is in southeastern Kentucky. (Google map, adapted)|
A massive solar-energy installation is planned for a huge, reclaimed strip mine in Eastern Kentucky, reports Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader: “BrightNight, a renewable power company, plans to build on the former Starfire mine, which is in Perry, Knott and Breathitt counties. The project would turn a site that produced a product blamed for contributing to global warming to one that will help cut carbon emissions that cause warming, supporters said.”
The first approved solar-powered facility on a reclaimed coal surface mine was in Harrison County, Ohio. It genertates 100 megawatts. The Starfire project will generate 800 mw. “The investment in the project would be $1 billion. It would be the largest solar project in Kentucky and one of the largest in the nation on a former surface mine,” Estep writes. “Brightnight CEO Martin Hermann said the project will transform a coal mine, reinvest in a region that has been an energy leader and wants to continue that role, and show the power of corporate purchasing to drive the development of renewable energy.” The project’s inception partly came from the state’s former elected auditor, Adam Edelen, who has another solar project in Martin County.
Renewables transportation company Rivian has committed to purchasing “enough power from the project to provide up to 450 million miles of driving with renewable power,” Estep reports. “The Nature Conservancy and Rivian developed a guide on how companies can back projects aimed at boosting clean-energy projects, based on the principles of protecting the climate; conservation, including protecting habitat; and helping communities.” The conservancy told Estep that Central Appalachia is a priority area for it to protect “because it is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet,” he writes. Its CEO, Jennifer Morris, told him: “We need to make sure both people and the planet are central to these decisions, especially in communities like the Appalachians that have powered America for centuries and have tremendous natural resources.”