$81 million federal grant for $1.3 billion hydropower facility coming to Bell County

Published 3:30 pm Friday, March 22, 2024

Gov Andy Beshear announced Thursday the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved an $81 million federal grant to help construct a first-of-its-kind $1.3 billion coal-to-pumped storage hydropower facility in Bell County.

The Lewis Ridge Pumped Storage Project will create about 1,500 high-quality construction jobs, 30 operations jobs and enough energy to power nearly 67,000 homes.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Demonstration Program and Former Mine Land grant, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, was approved for Rye Development to convert a former coal mine site near the Cumberland River, to a pumped-storage hydroelectric facility.

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“Congratulation to Rye Development and thank you to Secretary Jennifer Granholm and the Department of Energy for supporting Kentucky as we continue to meet America’s energy needs,” Beshear said. “We are so proud to support a project that builds on the region’s strong energy-producing history while creating those 1,530 good jobs that will help power the next generation.”

Rye Development CEO Paul Jacob was at the Capitol, and told those on hand, “This project is not only a significant investment in Kentucky, it’s an investment in strengthening our national electricity grid, helping to secure our energy future. The Lewis Ridge Pumped Storage Project will protect against blackouts and brownouts, while transforming a former mining site into a long-term economic engine for the region.”

Rye Development is a leading U.S. hydropower developer and has successfully partnered with community stakeholders throughout the United States to create critical energy infrastructure projects that drive job creation, foster substantial local economic development and positively impact underrepresented and disadvantaged communities.

According to the DOE, the project will:

–Increase energy resilience for 16+ states by providing cost-effective, reliable, clean electricity available during times of high demand or extreme weather events.

–Re-use already impacted habitats for pumped storage hydroelectric, demonstrating pathways for replicability on similar mine site across Appalachia.

–Reduce emissions and local energy burdens by replacing highly polluting “peaker plants” with cheaper, cleaner hydropower, providing a valuable tool to balance the power grid.

–Leverage local resources to provide apprenticeship opportunities and train local workforce for permanent operations and maintenance jobs.

Beshear says construction is expected to take about five years and the project should provide as reliable source of electricity during weather events.

The DOE says there are five projects, receiving a total of $475 million between them. The other projects are in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.