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A solar farm grows in Appalachian coal country

One coal company is converting two former mining sites into a massive solar farm.

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Megan Wollerton
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1 of 10 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Pikeville, Kentucky has a population of 6,700.

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Ross Harris Group, or RH Group, is a coal company headquartered in Pikeville. Ryan Johns is RH Group's vice president of business development.

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RH Group is converting 700 acres of land, previously used to mine coal, into a solar farm.

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4 of 10 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The future farm is divided into two sections. This area was mined over a decade ago and is covered in tall grass.

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This section was mined more recently and has a lot of exposed dirt and rock. 

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The solar farm is a short drive from Pikeville's city center.

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Coal has been a significant industry in the Pikeville area. 

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Coal production in Pike County declined 12.3 percent year over year in the third quarter of 2018 and 80 coal jobs were lost, according to a report from the state government.

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9 of 10 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Adam Edelen, founder of Edelen Ventures and a former Kentucky state auditor, helped Johns come up with the idea to build the solar farm. Here he discusses the project's potential to revitalize the Appalachian region.

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10 of 10 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

During the construction period, RH Group will employ over 200 people. Afterward, 30 to 50 full-time workers will take on security jobs, as well as monitor the flow of the panels and maintain them.

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