Former Kentucky Coal Mine Transforms into Renewable Energy Project

Old Kentucky mine site, landscape

by | Jul 26, 2023

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Old Kentucky mine site, landscape

(Credit: Dean Hill, the Nature Conservancy)

The Starfire Mine, once a prominent coal mining site, is set to become the Starfire Renewable Energy Project as renewable power producer BrightNight, in collaboration with Rivian Automotive and the Nature Conservancy, plans to develop an 800 megawatt solar energy center on the former mine lands in Kentucky.

This project represents a $1 billion investment and, according to the Nature Conservancy, it will be the largest renewable power project in Kentucky and one of the nation’s largest on former mine land. The initiative aims to drive environmental stewardship, carbon reduction, and energy sustainability while providing enough electricity to power more than 170,000 businesses and residents.

From Coal to Solar: The Starfire Renewable Energy Center

BrightNight’s Starfire Renewable Energy Center is envisioned to consist of an 800 MW solar energy capacity, contributing to the region’s clean energy goals. The center’s transformation will breathe new life into the former Starfire coal mine, repurposing the land to generate clean electricity and reduce carbon emissions. This forward-thinking project marks a significant milestone in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Collaborative Efforts for Clean Energy

BrightNight’s partnership with Rivian and the Nature Conservancy is intended to repurpose an abandoned coal mine in Kentucky, showcasing the importance of the Appalachian region in efforts such as these, according to the project. 

Rivian, a company committed to promoting electrified transportation, will support the project by purchasing 100 MW of renewable power from Phase 1 through a power purchase agreement with BrightNight. This partnership will enable Rivian to power up to 450 million miles of renewable driving annually, aligning with its sustainability objectives.

Additionally, BrightNight’s other partner, the Nature Conservancy, which is a global environmental nonprofit, will also play a pivotal role in the Starfire project. Together with Rivian, they developed the Power with Purpose guide, aimed at encouraging companies to support clean-energy projects based on climate protection, conservation, and community impact. The Nature Conservancy will purchase renewable energy credits from the project.

BrightNight said the Starfire Renewable Energy Center is more than just a solar project; it serves as a model for future energy transformation initiatives nationwide. By showcasing how engineering excellence and corporate partnerships can drive successful renewable energy projects, the initiative is set to inspire similar endeavors across the country.

Reviving the Appalachian Region

Central Appalachia, including Eastern Kentucky, is a priority area for the Nature Conservancy due to its exceptional biodiversity. The Starfire project aligns with the organization’s mission to protect and preserve this valuable region while transitioning it toward a cleaner and more sustainable future.

The project development will take place in four phases, with construction expected to commence in 2025. Upon completion, the Starfire Renewable Energy Center will create an estimated 250 direct construction jobs in each phase, providing significant economic benefits to the region. As the project moves forward, BrightNight is engaging with the local community to understand development priorities, secure land for the transmission line, and ensure environmentally conscious site design based on the best available science.


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