TALCUM, Ky. — The Starfire Coal Mine used to produce enough energy for Kentucky and beyond, but it is now being reclaimed to produce a different type of energy. The BrightNight Starfire Renewable Energy Center will be Kentucky’s largest renewable power project.

What You Need To Know

  • The Starfire Coal Mine in Knott County is going to be repurposed as a renewable energy center. A solar panel farm will be constructed on the property

  • BrightNight is heading the operations and has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and Rivian Automotive Inc.

  • The project will have four phases that will have an 800-megawatt capacity and be able to power over 500,000 households. Construction on the first phase will begin in 2025

  • This will be a $1 billion investment

In a few years, construction will begin to create a solar panel farm that will have an 800-megawatt capacity.

“We need to be using lands that are already degraded, like here this 7,000 acre area, where we can actually continue the tradition of eastern Kentucky as a powerhouse of energy production,” said Jennifer Morris, the CEO of The Nature Conservancy.

The project consists of four phases that will produce enough electricity to power over 500,000 households. BrightNight will break ground on its first phase in 2025, and the company is looking complete all four phases by 2030.

“All in, there’s going to be a $1 billion investment,” said Martin Hermann, BrightNight’s CEO.

The Nature Conservancy along with Rivian Automotive Inc. have partnered with BrightNight and will purchase renewable power from the first phase.

“As the Nature Conservancy, you know we work in every single state in the United States,” said Morris. “We’re in 79 countries so we, you know, need energy for the places that we lease, particularly our offices around the country, here in the U.S. in particular.”

“This is the first project where we’re going to be tying this project where we created upstream energy supply to the downstream usage of the vehicles, then they’ll be integrated into some customer-facing packages that actually link the energy generation here to the usage of the vehicles,” said RJ Scaringe, the founder and CEO of Rivian.

According to Morris, reclaiming old coal mines, like Starfire, to create renewable energy centers is seen as more sustainable than to clear space for solar panel farms.

This will also have an impact on the community. Over the lifetime of the project, there will be about $100 million in local tax generation for each phase.

“On a high level, 200-megawatt, you can think of 250 construction jobs,” said Hermann. “Construction, usually 18 to 24 months, and you have about 150 indirect jobs that benefit from the construction site, then about five permanent jobs for those 200-megawatt.”

And that’s just for one phase. It is for this reason and Starfire Mine’s historic contributions to energy production in the U.S, that, according to Morris, the community seems to also support this project.

The first phase is expected to be finished and producing electricity by 2027.