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New solar facility announced for eastern Kentucky


BrightNight Power, Rivian Automotive, and The Nature Conservancy recently announced plans to transform a former eastern Kentucky coal mine into a solar farm.

The Starfire Coal Mine, located in Breathitt, Knott and Perry Counties, will be repurposed into a solar power facility. Experts said when finished, the energy center will be the largest in the state, projected to produce enough electricity for more than 500,000 Kentucky households total, with an 800-megawatt capacity.

David Phemister is the state director for Nature Conservancy. He explained the Conservancy’s role in the project included evaluating degraded lands for renovation, and the Starfire site was a perfect fit.

“So, we’re not disturbing natural systems or other productive lands. This property, it’s really big, it has great sun or solar exposure,” said Phemister. “And you know, it’s in a part of the state that is actively looking to diversify its economy asking that question of, ‘what comes next?’”

The Starfire solar project is set for development over four phases. Phase 1 is scheduled to begin in 2025. Phemister said it’s fitting that eastern Kentucky remain an energy leader for the region.

 “Solar on former mine sites provides an opportunity for the Appalachians, eastern Kentucky, to continue to be an energy leader and an energy leader in clean, green, sustainable power. So, I think part of it is continuing, but shifting, that legacy in energy production from this region,” said Phemister.

The facility is expected to start producing enough electricity to power 170,000 homes by 2027.