BrightNight, Rivian and The Nature Conservancy announce $1 billion solar project in Eastern Kentucky

By Lilli Dubler, Building Kentucky

Martin Hermann, CEO of renewable power producer BrightNight, joined representatives from Rivian Automotive and The Nature Conservancy to announce a joint partnership to build the new Starfire Renewable Energy Center. The project will transform the now defunct Starfire Mine in Perry County into Kentucky’s largest renewable power project.

The $1 billion project will construct enough solar panels to create 800-megawatts (MW) of energy, enough to power over 170,000 households per year. 100 MW of power will be sold to Rivian for production of clean, equitable and electrified transportation.

“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 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.”

Rivian brought The Nature Conservancy into the project to establish a rigorous, competitive process for manufacturing clean energy that maximizes positive impacts on the climate, conservation and communities.

“We must also support the decarbonization of our energy infrastructure through the responsible deployment of renewable energy,” said Rivian Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe. “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.”

The Starfire Mine, formerly one of the largest coal mines in the United States, has a rich history that the project intends to honor. Revitalizing the land around the mine and transitioning from producing coal-powered energy to renewable solar energy acknowledges the history of the site while demonstrating the innovation and growth of the industry in this region.

“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,” said Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “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.”

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman and Rocky Adkins – who serves as a senior advisor to Gov. Andy Beshear – also showed their support for the project, stating how impactful the project will be to the Commonwealth’s economy.

“This investment that can grow to be a billion dollars, is important as we move into the future, as we attract new types of jobs, new industries, the workforce of the future, the economy of the future, to come here to Eastern Kentucky,” Adkins said.

The announcement also discussed ties to the newly established Olive Branch community, which has provided housing for flood victims in Eastern Kentucky. The community will benefit from the Starfire Renewable Energy Center, which will help power Olive Branch.

The project is set to be completed in four phases with construction of Phase 1 beginning in 2025.

Share This Article