U.S. Department of Energy invests in proposed Bell County hydropower facility

Republished from WEKU.

The U.S. Department of Energy is helping a proposed hydropower facility in Bell County gain traction by investing $81 million into the project.

The money comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The Lewis Ridge Pumped Storage Project is one of five clean energy projects across the U.S. that were announced to get funding, all on current or former mine land.

The facility would generate 287 megawatts of energy and would power 67,000 homes. If constructed, it would be one of the first such facilities in the country to be built in 30 years.

Sandy Slayton is the Vice President of Rye Development, the company developing the facility. She calls the project a huge undertaking, with the total expected cost being more than $1 billion.

“The more support we have, the better, both to showcase the opportunities that are available at former mined lands, and also to help us propel the project forward and get it constructed,” Slayton said.

Rye Development says it would create 1,500 construction jobs and 30 operations jobs. They are working with local unions and the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College to create a local workforce pool.

“Workers and communities who powered our country for the last 100 years deserve the chance to power us for the next 100 and beyond,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk said during a media call announcing the investment.

Slayton says the federal funds will help speed up the project’s timeline.

“The investment is going to all phases of our project,” Slayton said. “So the investment will initially be used to support our field work and our permitting, and we’ll move into the construction phase as we move through those phases.”

The proposed facility is currently undergoing a multi-year licensing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, expected to be finalized in 2027. If the project is approved, construction could take around four years and be operational in 2031.

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Originally published by WEKU.

Republished with permission.