WISE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – Up to 65,000 acres of previously mined coal properties in Southwest Virginia will be transformed as the Commonwealth looks to meet its energy needs and diversify the region’s economy, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday.

A release from Youngkin’s office states a land development agreement has been established to transform the land in line with the governor’s energy plan to “to harness natural gas, nuclear, renewables, and other emerging energy sources,” including the development of small, modular nuclear reactors in Southwest Virginia.

The transformation of the land to a potential energy hub will also attract “high-quality jobs to Southwest Virginia communities that have been significantly impacted by the downturn in coal production over the past several decades.”

Energy DELTA Lab will coordinate with Wise County leaders and landowner Energy Transfer to develop the lands with the help of energy companies and other utilities.

Energy Transfer’s land is located primarily in Wise County, and the governor’s office said it owns both surface and subsurface rights.

Youngkin said Virginia’s power demand is “skyrocketing,” making the agreement to develop the old mine lands perfectly timed.

“This agreement will make Virginia energy more reliable, affordable and clean while transforming Southwest Virginia into a hub for innovation,” Youngkin said.

The DELTA Lab was created following the release of Youngkin’s energy plan with the mission of diversifying Southwest Virginia’s economy and helping the state meet power demand. It is working on multiple projects, including bringing modular reactors to the region and developing a “Data Center Ridge” on 400 acres of previously mined land.

“Private sector leadership from Energy Transfer and Penn Virginia is critical to our long-term development strategy in Southwest Virginia’s coalfields,” said Will Payne, managing partner of Coalfield Strategies and advisor to Energy DELTA Lab. “By creating multi-purpose energy ready sites, we are addressing industry demand for co-locating significant power generation assets with robust power users, including data centers.”

According to the governor’s office, more than a dozen projects currently under consideration represent more than $8.25 billion in potential private investment, 1,650 potential new jobs, and nearly one gigawatt of new power generation.