MARTIN COUNTY — Solar energy could replace the coal economy in eastern Kentucky, or at least that’s the hope of developers who are repurposing an old coal mine to bring in 300 new jobs.
Adam Edelen, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2019, is now putting time into a new project meant to help out-of-work coal miners: a new solar energy farm in Martin County.
“These communities that literally powered the industrial development of this country for 100 years have been decimated by the disappearance of the coal industry,” Adam
He says the project includes $280 million worth of investment.
Local groups, including Big Sandy Community and Technical College, will help bring in people specifically who lost work when the coal jobs left.
“Folks who worked in the coal industry are exactly what you would want on any team: they’re hardworking people, they’re used to working in a team, they have highly-developed skill sets, and they’re inherently problem-solvers,” Edelen said. “And that’s exactly the group of people that we want to reemploy on this and the other coal-to-solar projects that we’re working on. And what we’ve found is a terrific response.”
Most of the jobs are only temporary though, about 18 months.
Edelen says with the certification the workers will earn through the process, it’ll lead to more solar development in an area that used to be a big player in producing electricity.
“I think it’s one of the central challenges of our time is that Kentucky has got to get with it,” Edelen said. “We have got to get relevant to the new green, sustainable economy, because it’s going to drive everything.”
Edelen expects construction to start at the beginning of next year.
According to the Energy and Environment Cabinet, Kentucky produced 6.5 million tons of coal in the first quarter of 2021, a decline of 9.5% compared to the same time frame last year. Martin County saw one of the steepest declines in coal production compared to last year with a 77% drop.