By Linda Waggener, freelance writer
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Campbellsville University, in partnership with Lycan Geological, LLC of Williamson, W.Va., has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as one of 22 recipients for grants to help communities develop a local energy action plan creating pathways to reduce air pollution, increase energy resilience, lower utility costs, grow the economy and create good-paying jobs.
“This $250,000 technical assistance is funded by the DOE’s ‘Communities LEAP’ pilot program,” said Holly Trowbridge, Campbellsville University’s director of corporate and foundation relations, who said this is a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to help energy-overburdened communities take direct control of their clean energy future.
The collaboration is seeking projects that can lead to new Campbellsville University programs that will educate future leaders in the sustainable energy industry.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to perform research and educate our students,” said Dr. Donna Hedgepath, CU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Bringing professionals together with university scientists can uncover new educational opportunities for future generations.”
Geologist Joe Lycan, who has extensive experience in the Appalachian coalfields, is the chief consultant for the project, developing collaborative partners in Logan and Mingo counties in West Virginia.
He credits West Virginia House of Delegates member Margitta Mazzocchi for having been instrumental in helping find the LEAP (local energy action plan) grant. “Delegate Mazzocchi brought this idea forward,” said Lycan. The grant can enable a team of science and community leaders to help the region work toward developing projects in independence and bring new educational opportunities to the region.
“We have gained support from the leadership of our area,” said Lycan. “State Senator Mark Maynard, Delegate Nathan Brown and members of the Mingo County Commission have all voiced their endorsement of our efforts in research, education and the economics that this grant can lead to.”
The grant will provide technical assistance for economic revitalization efforts in southern West Virginia and the Central Appalachian Basin.
“Among the ideas already being considered for research are an opportunity in critical mineral development, microgrid hydroelectric generation and the search for rare earth and critical mineral extraction,” Lycan said.
Rare Earth’s supply chain is responsible for some of the most important materials involved in electric vehicle production, battery making, renewable energy systems and technology manufacturing.
“We are excited about this opportunity,” said Dr. H. Keith Spears, chancellor for Campbellsville University System Advancement. “It is evident that these types of partnerships within our communities pay great dividends. This is part of our mission.”
By providing targeted technical assistance, LEAP will open the door for communities to access additional DOE and other federal government funds, along with those included in the $1.3 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“This is a great first step for our region to understand the infrastructure needs,” said Paul E. Pinson, attorney and chairman of the board of directors for the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (W.Va). “We are enthused to see Campbellsville University and local science people working together.”
The 22 selected communities will work with DOE and its network of technical assistance providers. Among the entities that participate are government and non-governmental partners, community-based organizations, utilities as well as environmental justice, economic development and business organizations to develop roadmaps for clean energy economic development pathways.
“The coalfields of Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky are ripe for investment and growth,” said Dianna Barnett of the Logan County, W.Va. County Commission. “This grant will give us the technology support to demonstrate that resources are here waiting for the right projects to develop.”
Communities LEAP also implements the Administration’s Justice40 commitment, which aims to ensure that federal agencies deliver at least 40% of benefits from certain investments to disadvantaged communities and advances the work of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, which focuses on delivering federal investment to hard-hit energy communities.
Communities LEAP is supported by six DOE offices: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Electricity, Indian Energy, Policy, and Economic Impact and Diversity. More details can be found at www.energies.gov/communitiesLEAP.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that has enrolled up to 12,000 students yearly. CU research has produced grants, including a National Foundation Grant in the sciences. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.