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Proposed hydro-power facility could bring jobs to Bell County

From WTVQ -

BELL COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – A company is planning a hydro-electric power facility on a former coal mine in Bell County.

The $1 billion project, announced Tuesday by Rye Development, could create as many as 2,000 construction jobs in the region during a three- to five-year period.

Rye Development, a leading U.S. hydropower developer with a current pipeline of more than 25 projects in 10 states, has started development of the Lewis Ridge Closed Loop Pumped Hydropower Storage project in Bell County. Rye has filed for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permit for the Lewis Ridge Project and has commenced the development process.

The Lewis Ridge pumped storage project is located adjacent to the Cumberland River near the communities of Blackmont, Tejay, Balkan and Callaway. The project site sits on a former coal strip mine in an active coal mining area. As coal is phased out of the grid across the nation, coal communities face uncertain employment and economic futures. Projects like Lewis Ridge create new jobs and economic activity in energy communities. The project will invest nearly $1 billion into the county and bring close to 2,000 family wage construction jobs as well as several dozen direct and indirect jobs during project operations, the company said in a statement.

When fully FERC permitted, the project would receive a 50-year license to operate. “Rye is proud to bring these types of developments to coal communities in the U.S. — delivering on the promise of jobs in the energy transition,” said Rye CEO Paul Jacob. “The Lewis Ridge project marks a significant step forward in the push toward a more renewable energy grid.”

The loss of coal generation also means the country will need thousands of megawatts of new generating resources and electricity storage to integrate the intermittent renewable energy from wind and solar that is being added to the grid. Long duration electricity storage, particularly pumped storage hydro, will help solve the challenge of how to take the wind and solar energy which is generated when the wind blows and the sun shines and transform that into energy that can keep the lights on around the clock. Closed loop pumped-storage facilities are systems that move water between a man-made lower reservoir and a man-made upper reservoir. Water is released from the upper reservoir and used to turn hydroelectric turbines to generate electricity before being collected in the lower reservoir and then returned to the upper reservoir to repeat the process, recycling the same water thousands of times to deploy needed energy to the grid.

Pumped storage offers a flexible solution to the changing grid, including the ability to store intermittent solar and wind resources moving forward. When constructed, the Lewis Ridge project will have the ability to generate over 200 MW for 8 hours, the company explained. The existing project site is unique and features beneficial topography and proximity to transmission infrastructure. These features allow Lewis Ridge to bring a significant amount of economic development benefit to adjacent communities while also preserving ratepayer reliability and affordability.

Pumped storage facilities are the most common form of energy storage in the U.S., representing 95% of all utility scale storage, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. It is a proven, available technology that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

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