Amid the decline of coal power, one fossil fuel company is refurbishing one of its old strip mining sites as a solar farm. Berkeley Energy Group is settingup two sites in eastern Kentucky as test locations to see if the concept is feasible. Early estimates peg the farm’s production at 50 to 100 megawatts, which would yield five to ten times more electricity than the largest existing solar facility in the state.
Berkeley Energy Group is pursuing this trial in partnership with EDF Renewable Energy. The project will be the first solar farm in the Appalachia region, which has seen the coal industry decline for decades. The project won’t explore replacing coal production entirely, a Berkeley Energy Group executive told the Courier-Journal, only to repurpose land that had already extracted its share of the fossil fuel — and create some jobs on the way.
A coal company exploring solar options probably isn’t what Donald Trump had in mind when he campaigned for the mythic — and unreal — “clean coal.” He signed an executive order in March rescinding former president Obama’s environmental protections to ease restrictions on fossil fuel production and reopen federal lands to coal mining as concessions to the energy industry. Berkeley Energy Group’s partnership experiment likely won’t take advantage of these relaxed guidelines, but it will surely be clean.