Starfire Mine, formerly one of the largest coal mines in the United States, will be the new site of a solar energy center. The announcement was made today by global renewable power producer BrightNight CEO Martin Hermann, Rivian Automotive Inc. Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe, and The Nature Conservancy CEO Jennifer Morris. They were joined by Kentucky Department of Energy and the Environment (EEC) Secretary Rebecca Goodman.
Once complete, the BrightNight Starfire Renewable Energy Center will have an 800-megawatt (MW) capacity, producing enough electricity to power over 170,000 households per year. When completed, it will be the largest renewable power project in Kentucky and one of the largest in the nation to be built on former mine lands, representing a $1-billion infrastructure investment. The project will also include BrightNight’s construction of up to a twenty-mile transmission line, enabling an additional 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable power generation to be built in the region in the future. BrightNight’s industry-leading work will serve as a model for future energy transformation projects nationwide, showcasing how engineering and commercial success can be achieved.
Project development will take place over four phases, with Phase 1 construction beginning in 2025. Rivian, committed to promoting clean, equitable, and electrified transportation, will purchase 100 MW of renewable power from Phase 1 through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with BrightNight, producing enough energy to power up to 450 million miles of renewable driving every year. The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit, will also purchase up to 2.5 MW of these renewable energy credits to complement its onsite solar arrays and achieve clean power sustainability commitments.
The Nature Conservancy collaborated with Rivian to establish a rigorous competitive process for selecting a clean energy project that would accelerate an equitable, science-based clean energy transition that maximizes positive impacts on climate, conservation, and communities, known as the “3Cs.” As a result, BrightNight emerged as the chosen developer for the Starfire Renewable Energy Center. Rivian and The Nature Conservancy co-developed “Power with Purpose,” a public guide that describes this strategy along with tools and resources for industry leaders to use and adapt this approach to accelerate environmentally and socially driven clean energy projects.
“Rivian is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking manufacturers in America, and we are proud that they have chosen BrightNight and the Starfire Renewable Energy Center to help achieve their sustainability goals,” BrightNight CEO Martin Hermann said. “Together, we are transforming a coal mine, reinvesting in a region eager to continue its role as an energy leader, and demonstrating the incredible impact of corporate power procurement.”
“Shifting our energy system toward carbon neutrality goes beyond electrifying the roughly 1.5 billion vehicles in the global fleet,” said Rivian Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe. “We must also support the decarbonization of our energy infrastructure through the responsible deployment of renewable energy. We are thrilled to collaborate with organizations like The Nature Conservancy and BrightNight to bring Starfire to life and help create a scalable model for a modern grid that provides reliable, affordable, and carbon free energy for all.”
“Significant investments in infrastructure will be critical to solving the climate crisis, but how we invest is just as important as how much we invest: We need to ensure both people and the planet are central to these decisions, especially in communities like the Appalachians that have powered America for centuries and have tremendous natural resources,” stated Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “We are proud to collaborate with Rivian and BrightNight on this important project.”
Kentucky EEC Secretary Rebecca Goodman expressed support for the project and thanked BrightNight for its willingness to discuss pathways to assist in the development of the Olive Branch Community, flood recovery housing championed by Kentucky Governor Beshear. The community, located just outside the mine, is aiming to provide affordable electricity and improved resiliency to residents. BrightNight and the KY EEC are currently exploring ways the independent power producer can assist with energy delivery, expanded and improved road infrastructure, and engineering support.
Until Phase 1 construction begins, BrightNight, with the support of Rivian and The Nature Conservancy, is focused on engaging the local community early and often. BrightNight is determining community development priorities, procuring land needed for its extensive transmission line right-of-way, securing additional offtake, developing environmentally conscious site design based on best available science, and monitoring for possible grid-related decisions that could accelerate project construction. Edelen, a Kentucky-based renewables developer, has been supporting BrightNight on the project by providing landowner and site development support services.
To learn more about the Starfire Renewable Energy Project, please visit https://brightnightpower.com/starfire-project.