Coming Soon to This Coal County: Solar, in a Big Way

This is coal country: Martin County, Kentucky. If that’s the case, then the country’s economy is in terrible shape. Coal mining in the county previously employed thousands of people, but now only employs around two dozen. Martin County was not a prosperous region of Kentucky even though coal mining was booming there.

Here is where Lyndon B. Johnson made the much-anticipated announcement of the beginning of his War On Poverty. In the present day, many of the county’s former high peaks have been blown up and ploughed into the valleys and waterways below.

However, in a twist of destiny, the now-smooth mountaintops make perfect locations for massive solar farms.

The Martin County Solar Project, a 200 megawatt solar farm on the site of the former Martiki mine, was developed locally by Adam Edelen, a native of Kentucky and a former Democratic state auditor.

Savion, a renewable energy firm, will own the facility after it finishes its final regulatory process. With the site’s already sub-station and transmission lines, millions of dollars can be saved on the costly initial setup required to link the facility to the grid and begin delivering all that lovely clean energy to the grid.

In order to help those temporary workers find permanent employment, Edelen and Savion collaborated with Big Sandy Community College administration to design a diploma programme.

Savion’s head of development, Erich Miarka, says, “Purely for selfish reasons, we have other projects in the region, other developers do, and these talents are going to be transferrable.” “There will be a great deal of effort required over the next few years.”

Sources of Energy Regeneration and Superfund Sites

For almost a decade, the EPA has pushed for the construction of renewable energy systems atop Superfund sites. Solar panels and wind turbines could care less if the ground they sit on is contaminated with hazardous materials, and would be preferable to constructing homes on top of polluted soil.

About 130,000 potential locations for wind or solar projects have been identified by the EPA, but only 500 of those locations have been converted to renewable energy generating thus far. There are currently 18 further solar projects being planned by Edelen Renewables, with 6 of them located at decommissioned coal mines.

There Are Some Sad People

Coal miners, among union members, appear to be the most resistant to changing their attention to renewable energy. They demand that they be reinstated to their previous positions immediately.

Many locals’ families have relied on coal mining for economic security for many decades. Accepting that coal culture, like that of blacksmiths and spokeshaves and cartwrights, is becoming extinct is a bitter pill to swallow.

That’s just not fair! Hillbilly Elegy is essentially about that kind of hurt pride. Coal miners, according to the Constitution, are assured of a job and benefits for as long as they live, which would include their offspring forever. Reactionary voices from the so-called “culture war” ring strongly throughout Martin county, where many lament the loss of their “way of life.”

When NGS was running, almost two-thirds of the households on the neighbouring Navajo tribe lacked access to electricity; this was not significantly improved by the construction of the solar farm.

Despite passing over Navajo territory, the transmission cables do not provide power to the locals. The solar industry needs to give greater thought to how the power it generates might be distributed to local populations.

Key Point

Listening to the grievances of people who did nothing while their villages were destroyed by coal firms and their land was damaged by mining is difficult.

A coal slurry containment lagoon broke its banks 21 years ago, releasing 250 million gallons of toxic coal waste laden with arsenic and mercury into the mine below, causing widespread destruction.

Then it made its way to the rivers and streams, where it drowned every frog, fish, and snapping turtle it encountered. The drinking water supply in the county was also tainted.