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$475m in US govt funding for clean energy projects on former mine land

US US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm

US US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm

25th March 2024

By: Creamer Media Reporter

     

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The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced up to $475-million in funding for five projects in Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to accelerate clean energy deployment on current and former mine land.

The funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will support a variety of diverse, locally-driven clean energy projects that can be replicated in current and former mining communities across the country.

“President Biden believes that the communities that have powered our nation for the past 100 years should power our nation for the next 100 years,” US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said last week, announcing the funding.

“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.” 

The selected projects cover a range of clean energy technologies, from solar, microgrids, and pumped storage hydropower to geothermal and battery energy storage systems (BESS).

Three projects are on former Appalachian coal mines, which supports economic revitalisation and workforce development on land that is no longer viable for industrial purposes.

In the West, two projects seek to displace fossil-fuel use by ramping up net-zero mining operations and providing the critical materials needed for a robust, domestic, clean energy supply chain.

The five projects selected for award negotiation include:

  • Copper Recovery to Support America’s Domestic Energy Supply Chain (Graham and Greenlee counties, Arizona) – This project seeks to deploy direct-use, geothermal, clean heat combined with a BESS at two active copper mines in southeast Arizona, helping decrease the mines’ reliance on onsite thermal backup generators while supporting the yearly extraction of 25-million pounds of copper, a critical material, previously considered unrecoverable. This project anticipates creating 121 construction and 12 operations jobs. Freeport Minerals, the selectee, aims to continue to foster partnerships with technical colleges and high schools, with an emphasis on expanding access for students from underrepresented groups and providing scholarships for nearly 300 Native American students from 14 tribes.  
     
  • Lewis Ridge project (coal-to-pumped storage hydropower) (Bell county, Kentucky) – This project proposes converting former coal mine land to a closed-loop, pumped-storage hydroelectric facility with the potential to dispatch up to eight hours of power when needed, such as during times of peak demand or extreme weather events. This project will support the increase of local tax revenues that have decreased steadily since the 1970s and create about 1 500 construction and 30 operations jobs. Rye Development serves as the selectee and plans to prioritise local hiring through partnerships with several unions and the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. 
     
  • Decarbonising Gold Mines (Elko, Humboldt and Eureka counties, Nevada) – This project aims to develop a solar photovoltaic (PV) facility and accompanying BESS across three active gold mines in Nevada. By shifting to clean energy, this project could demonstrate a replicable way for the mining industry to reach net-zero operations, while meeting growing demands for minerals across multiple sectors—including the clean energy supply chain. Nevada Gold Mines, the selectee, has committed to local hiring; offering training, mentoring and apprenticeships; and creating 300 construction jobs to support this project. 
     
  • Mineral Basin: Coal-to-Solar (Clearfield county, Pennsylvania) – This project plans to repurpose nearly 2 700 acres of former coal mining land to support the largest solar project in Pennsylvania. At 402 MW, Mineral Basin will generate enough clean energy to power more than 70 000 homes. This project will increase regional access to clean energy and fill a critical electricity-generation gap following the closure of the Homer City coal plant. The project expects to create more than 750 construction jobs and six operations jobs, while providing $1.1-million in yearly tax revenue to Goshen and Girard townships, Clearfield county and the Clearfield county school district. Once operational, Mineral Basin will contribute $500 for every megawatt generated yearly to Goshen and Girard townships for community improvements, for a total of more than $200 000 a year. Mineral Basin Solar Power, a subsidiary of Swift Current Energy, the selectee, plans to partner with multiple local and regional education and workforce stakeholders to increase economic mobility for citizens across a 27-county region; make significant improvements to the water quality on the Susquehanna River; and create high-demand, high-wage jobs across multiple sectors.  
     
  • A Model for Transition: Coal-to-Solar (Nicholas county, West Virginia) – This project plans to repurpose two former coal mines with a utility-scale, 250 MW solar PV system that would power about 39 000 West Virginia homes. These two inactive mine sites provide land and access to existing energy infrastructure that will transmit the clean, solar energy the project generates to the grid. Repurposing these previously disturbed sites for solar energy development can reduce development on sensitive natural and agricultural land, produce and deliver clean power to local communities, and lay the groundwork for regional economic revitalization starting with the workforce. The New River Community and Technical College, Mana Group, and National Association of Counties Research Foundation plan to create a national Coal Transition Workforce Center to support and revitalize the local workforce for other opportunities in the nation’s growing clean energy economy. This project anticipates creating approximately 400 construction jobs and four operations jobs and aims to engage state labour groups and education programmes, curating a curriculum and identifying pathways to good-paying, clean energy jobs. 

The DoE argues that developing clean energy projects on mine land provides an attractive economic alternative to using undisturbed natural and agricultural land. Mine land is often located near critical infrastructure that makes it suitable for clean energy development, including electric substations, transmission lines, and access to roads or railroad lines.

The department notes that projects ultimately selected for award have the potential to be replicated and scaled on the millions of acres of current and former US mine land.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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