BrightNight & RWE’s groundbreaking Kentucky solar centres

Solar energy. Credit | Getty
BrightNight and RWE’s new solar facilities boost renewable energy in coal-dependant Kentucky — EV developer Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe celebrates partnership

Kentucky has been mining coal since the late 1700s, and remains one of the US’ largest coal users and producers. Coal is the largest source of energy generation for the state, and while solar power amounts for nearly 10% power generation for the US, it still amounts for less than 1% in Kentucky specifically. 

As the world shifts to renewable energy, Kentucky has some major solar developments on the way, including Ashwood Solar.

RWE break ground on Ashwood Solar project

The facility covers around 250 acres in Lyon County, Kentucky and will have the capacity to supply more than 15,000 houses with green energy generated by over 226,000 bi-facial, fixed-tilted solar panels. It is being constructed and operated by German Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk (RWE) under a 20-year contract with Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency to purchase 100% of the energy produced by the project.

“Our Ashwood project, which will be the largest facility of its kind in the state, underscores how competitive solar energy is in diverse markets across the US,” said Mark Noyes, CEO of RWE Clean Energy, a subsidiary of RWE AG. 

“Each project we install produces sustainable, renewable energy, cuts harmful emissions and helps improve air and water quality in the community. We are committed to being a good neighbour in the community for the long term and thank the local communities and officials for their warm welcome.”

The facility is due to be operational in 2024.

BrightNight provides Rivian with renewable power

Renewable energy company BrightNight has announced a facility that will produce almost 10 times the electricity of Ashwood Solar to be built in eastern Kentucky.

The solar energy centre will be on the site of Starfire Mine, formally one of the largest coal mines in the United States. 

BrightNight Starfire Renewable Energy Center is a US$1bn investment and will overtake Ashwood Solar as the largest renewable power project in Kentucky, as well as one of the largest to be built on former mine lands in the US. 

The facility will have an 800-megawatt (MW) capacity, producing enough electricity to power over 170,000 households per year — nearly 10 times as much as Ashwood Solar. 

Global renewable power producer BrightNight’s CEO Martin Hermann announced the plans alongside RJ Scaringe, Rivian Automotive Inc. Founder and CEO, and Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy.

“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,” Hermann says. 

“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.”

The centre is due to be operational in 2025, producing 100MW annually for electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian in its early days — enough energy to power up to 450 million miles of renewable driving every year.

“Shifting our energy system toward carbon neutrality goes beyond electrifying the roughly 1.5 billion vehicles in the global fleet,” Scaringe comments. 

“We must also support the decarbonization of our energy infrastructure through the responsible deployment of renewable energy. We are thrilled to collaborate with organisations 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.”

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