He said the project will send a strong signal that Kentucky is serious about achieving its objectives in the energy industry.
"State government must â?¦ make strategic investments in our future, no matter our current budget outlook. This announcement today is a reflection of the sort of strategic investment that will potentially pay off in huge dividends for the future of our people," Beshear said.
Representatives from General Atomics declined to speculate on the scale of a possible plant or how many jobs it might create.
General Atomics' president, Bill Davidson, said the company will not know details until research is complete, but he indicated that the project would likely include a multimillion-dollar facility. He said construction on such a facility would probably not begin for four to five years.
Under the partnership, EKU will establish a Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technology, which will head up the research effort.
So far state and federal officials have secured $5.5 million in funding for the first phase of the project.
Todd Denham, director of economic development for Winchester and Clark County, said 220 acres of land is available in the industrial park to test crops for use in fuel production. However, neither the city of Winchester nor county government have committed to any funding or incentive packages for the project.
Mayor Ed Burtner said local officials have been working to recruit the project for about a year and hope to have both facilities constructed in Clark County.
He said "There is a lot of work to be done yet, and that is the plan going in."
He explained that General Atomics has made an initial commitment to build a plant here.
At the conference this morning, officials expressed optimism that the project will move forward as expected.
"This is incredibly important to Clark County and Kentucky's agriculture," said state Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester. "Clark County and central Kentucky will be the perfect place â?¦ to try out different types of crops and biproducts of crops we are growing to turn them into fuel."
Contact Mike Wynn at email@example.com.