At the site of a former coal mine in Appalachian Kentucky, the proposed $1.3-billion Lewis Ridge Project would repurpose the site with a 287-MW pumped storage hydropower facility. State Gov. Andy Beshear (D) says the project would create jobs and generate enough energy to power close to 67,000 homes.

The project is one of five that U.S. Dept. of Energy officials announced that had been selected for funding under a program to boost clean energy development on the sites of former or current mines. Using money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the agency's Clean Energy Demonstration Program on Current and Former Mine Land will provide up to $475 million total for the projects in Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. 

The Lewis Ridge Project, located in Bell County, Ky., is set to receive up to $81 million from the program. Rye Development, the company behind the project, plans to build a closed-loop pumped hydro system that CEO Paul Jacob says would be the first ever to be built on former mine land and one of the first U.S. hydropower storage facilities to be built in 30 years. Construction is expected to involve about 1,500 workers, according to the company. 

“It will help breathe life into Eastern Kentucky communities that have experienced population decline in recent years, and at the same time help reinforce our electricity grid,” Jacob said during a call with reporters.

The largest amount of money from the funding round—$129 million—is set for a project in West Virginia that would repurpose two former coal mines. Located in Nicholas County, it involves construction of a solar PV system with a 250-MW capacity. Another project in Clearfield County, Pa., would also repurpose a former coal mine with 402 MW of solar generation on 2,700 acres, to be the state's largest solar energy site, said a developer executive. That project is set to receive up to $90 million from DOE. 

Both projects would involve hundreds of construction workers, agency officials say.

Officials also selected two projects in the Southwest. They offered up to $80 million for Freeport Minerals Corp.’s demonstration project in Arizona to build a geothermal, microgrid and battery energy storage system. The company plans to use the project for increasing copper yields from mined material at two active mines in Graham and Greenlee counties. 

In Nevada, officials are set to award another $95 million for a project to build a solar facility and battery energy storage system on three active gold mines in Elko, Humboldt and Eureka counties that is expected to reduce emissions by 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide over the project’s lifetime. 

The reclaimed mine program would provide benefits of transition to clean energy in communities that traditionally relied on mining and traditional energy production. It is also part of the White House’s “Justice40 Initiative,” which set a goal for 40% of benefits from certain federal investments to support disadvantaged communities. 

The program is “supporting jobs and economic development in the areas hit hardest by our evolving energy landscape,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.