The complex, which is located in Freestone, Leon and Limestone counties in the eastern region of Texas, was bestowed the award for its placement of a solar-powered water well to supply a portable irrigation system used for re-vegetation of reclaimed acreage planted with trees and shrubs.

Specifically, the system captures solar energy through several large photovoltaic modules, which then send the converted energy to electric water pumps. Groundwater is then brought to the surface and temporarily held in large, on-site storage tanks until battery-powered remote control valves open, allowing water to flow through the irrigation systems until the preprogrammed interval of time has expired. Each irrigation zone is synched, TRCT officials said, allowing for a nearly complete autonomous watering system.

About half of Jewett’s 31,000 total acres are in various stages of reclamation as outlined by railroad commission protection regulations. The irrigation system, also solar-powered, is instrumental in establishing the land’s vegetative cover.

“Because of the mine’s remote location, traditional overhead transmission lines were not available to power a water well for reclamation,” Chairman David Porter said. “Instead, Westmoreland researched and then developed a large solar-powered reclamation well to irrigate reclaimed areas, ultimately carrying on a long-standing Texas coal mining practice of restoring natural areas.”

Commissioner Christi Craddick noted that Westmoreland’s work was typical of the industry in the state of Texas. “They [energy producers] take a challenge and then develop a new way to address a challenge — in this case, how to irrigate a remote, large-scale revegetation project in a dry climate.”

The Jewett mine, one of the state’s largest operations, produces approximately 5 million tons of lignite annually (about 9% of the state’s total production each year).