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$1.3 billion hydropower facility being built in southeastern Kentucky

Gov. Andy Beshear and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced on Thursday that a billion-dollar hydropower facility is being built in southeastern Kentucky.

The Lewis Ridge Pumped Storage Project was approved for an up-to-$81 million federal grant to help construct a “first-of-its-kind” $1.3 billion coal-to-pumped storage hydropower facility in Bell County, according to a news release.

The project will create 1,500 construction jobs and 30 operations jobs, officials said. It will also deliver enough clean energy to power about 67,000 homes annually.

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

“Thanks to the President’s Investing in America agenda, DOE is helping deploy clean energy solutions on current and former mine land across the country—supporting jobs and economic development in the areas hit hardest by our evolving energy landscape,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said.

The site is located adjacent to the Cumberland River.

“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,” Paul Jacob, CEO of Rye Development, said.

These facilities are the most common form of energy storage in the United States, officials said, representing 93% of all utility-scale storage. The project can produce up to eight hours of dispatchable power during times of “peak demand” or severe weather.

“Just as we are leading the EV revolution, Kentucky can also lead the energy storage revolution,” Beshear said. “Our economy is gaining momentum like we’ve never seen before, and the energy industry is a big part of it.”

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