Jeff Masters Weather Blog

Mountaintop coal mine in Kentucky to become a solar farm » Yale Climate Connections


Across Appalachia, coal mines are closing. And people are trying to figure out what to do with former mine lands, including mountaintops that were blasted off to get to the coal underneath.

Albrecht: “So you end up with this almost like plateau-like landscape … with hundreds of acres at a time that are almost pancake flat.”

Joseph Albrecht is with BrightNight, a solar developer. He says some reclaimed mine land is well-suited for solar development — both because of that flat wide-open terrain and because it’s already been developed with roads and power lines.

Albrecht: “We very much have an environment that’s already been built up for uses like this, so it’s an extremely natural transition to continue to build infrastructure that will then continue to produce energy in the area.”

So his company plans to build a massive solar project at the Starfire Mine in eastern Kentucky. It was once one of the region’s largest coal mines. Parts of the site are still being actively mined, but large areas are no longer in use.

Across thousands of acres, BrightNight will install enough solar panels to power more than half a million homes each year.

Albrecht says it could serve as a model for how reclaimed mine land can be put to new use — and help coal country benefit from the transition to clean energy.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy / ChavoBart Digital Media


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