Solar on abandoned coal mines: the juxtaposition of these two energy forms has been a popular topic of conversation in recent years. The Martin County Solar Project to be built on approximately 1,400 acres once occupied by the Martiki mine site in Martin County, Kentucky has been one of the projects looked at as an opportunity to bring about economic and environmental benefit to the coalfields.
In addition to the energy that will be generated from the project once operational, the question was asked: how can Martin County benefit beyond the initial 300 local construction jobs and ongoing operation and maintenance jobs after construction is complete?
Mountain Association, a community economic development nonprofit, helped facilitate conversations between Savion, developer of the Martin County site, and Martin County community leaders. Ultimately, the group decided that an accompanying solar installation at one of the local schools was a beneficial way to bring both savings and additional educational opportunities around renewable energy into the community.
Always looking for ways to help increase awareness about the benefits of renewables, Savion, developer for the site, donated $100,000 to support the construction of a solar installation at Martin County High School.
“I’m excited to see the solar installation at Martin County High School become reality,” Erich Miarka, development director for Savion, said. “This is a great way to pair solar energy and educational opportunities at Martin County Schools. We have enjoyed partnering with the Mountain Association to make this solar project for Martin County Schools a reality.”
Made up of 100 solar panels, the system is expected to save the school system $12,500 per year. In addition to these savings, Larry James, superintendent for Martin County Schools, is looking forward to seeing how they can add programming for students around the installation.
“The solar array is going to be on the ground behind the school, making it more visual and real than it being on the roof somewhere,” James said.
James explained that in addition to the Area Technology Center based at the high school, which offers programs like carpentry and electricity, they also have a tiny house program, where students design, build and sell a tiny house each year. He said solar learning components would tie in well with each of the programs.
“We’re excited to see how this goes and see where it leads to.”
Josh Bills, senior energy analyst with the Mountain Association, presented a check on behalf of Savion to the school system on Tuesday, October 31, at a meeting held for installation companies interested in the high school solar job. The school system hopes to complete the installation in early 2024.
The Martin County Solar Project will also begin construction in 2024. For more information on the larger project, please visit: https://www.martincountysolarproject.com/