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Rural Blog: Coal company wants to turn reclaimed Eastern Kentucky strip mine into solar farm

An Eastern Kentucky coal company on Tuesday said it wants to build Appalachia’s largest solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop strip mine in far Eastern Kentucky.

The Berkeley Energy Group said the project, which is still in the early stages, would be the first large-scale solar project in Appalachia. It didn’t say how much the project would cost; former state auditor Adam Edelen, who is involved, told The Rural Blog that it would require “tens of millions in capital investments and will be largely determined by the size of the project,” which is still under evaluation.

Berkeley Energy Group photo of mine site

The key funding partner is EDF Renewable Energy, a major company.

Eastern Kentucky doesn’t get as much sunlight as much of the nation, and has not been considered a hot spot for solar development.

However, it gets as much as Germany, which is “the solar leader,” Edelen said.

One key to the project, he said, will be its access to eastern energy markets through PJM Interconnection, the regional electric-transmission organization that reaches as far as Newark and Norfolk.

“Without PJM it would be much more difficult,” Edelen said.

Ryan Johns, BEG project development executive, told James Bruggers of The Courier-Journal, “We are not looking at this as trying to replace coal, but we have already extracted the coal from this area.”

Edelen said the site is about 10 miles east of Pikeville, near Bent Mountain.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.`

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One Comment

  1. Lowry Marshall says:

    Kudos to the forward-looking Berkeley Energy Group! Their renewable energy project will be a model for the nation.

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