solar energy

Utility-scale solar booming in Kentucky

Nov 22, 2021
Duke Energy

Merchant solar companies looking to harness the power of the sun are increasingly turning to Kentucky. Over the last two years, utility regulators have approved 13 utility-scale solar projects across the state.

These so-called merchant solar companies build solar arrays to sell electricity in wholesale markets or directly to companies looking for renewable energy sources. 

Utility regulators on the Kentucky State Board on Electric Generation and Transmission Siting approved four of these projects in the last month alone — the latest of which is planning to build a 200 megawatt solar project on a reclaimed coal mine in Martin County. 

Kentucky Solar Industries Association President Matt Partymiller said the costs to build solar projects has fallen dramatically over the last decade, from about $6 per watt to about $1 per watt.

Ryan Van Velzer

State utility regulators have upheld the value of rooftop solar and established new rates for net-metering customers with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities. 

Under the revised rates, LG&E and KU customers who want to put solar on their homes will be credited about 7 cents per kilowatt hour for the excess energy they put back onto the grid, according to last week’s order

That’s less than the one-to-one retail rate LG&E and KU customers received before, but more than the 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour that the utility wanted to pay.

LG&E spokesperson Chris Whelan says that rate is the same as what they would pay for the wholesale cost to produce the power. 

Duke Energy

Advocates are urging Kentucky to develop solar energy projects on farms and abandoned coal mines as the state considers expanding its renewable energy portfolio.

Developers have been planning and building large-scale solar projects around the state—some more successfully than others—as the technology becomes more affordable and pressure increases to develop renewable energy.

During a joint hearing of the legislature’s Natural Resources and Agriculture committees on Wednesday, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman said the state has the land and energy markets necessary for solar.

“There’s a corporate demand for renewable electricity. Economic development and that corporate demand will continue to be primary movers toward encouraging solar development in Kentucky,” Goodman said.

Kentucky Utility Regulators Set Rooftop Solar Rate

May 18, 2021
Gray Watson/Creative Commons

Kentucky utility regulators have for the first time put a dollar figure to the electricity that rooftop solar customers generate when they put energy back on the grid.

They concluded that it’s worth a lot more than utilities want to pay net-metering customers. 

The Public Service Commission set the net metering rate at a little more than 9 and a half cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than the one-to-one retail rate Kentucky Power customers received previously, but more than twice the 3 and a half cents per kwh that Kentucky Power wanted to pay to solar generators.

Friday’s order from the Public Service Commission sets rates for rooftop solar customers in the eastern part of the state with Kentucky Power, but it also sets precedent for how utility regulators will determine the value of rooftop solar in the future.

Power Switch: Solar Is Heating Up In The Ohio Valley

May 3, 2021
Bryce Baumann

St. Vincent’s Mission has been doing the work of feeding, clothing and sheltering the people of Floyd County, Kentucky, since 1968. 

“We believe that all persons have a God-ordained right to the basic needs of life in order to meet their full potential,” the mission states on its website.

Recently, the mission looked for a little help from above to reduce overhead costs and focus on community service in a county with a poverty rate of 27%, well above the state and national average. The mission installed an array of solar panels. 

Erin Bottomlee directs St. Vincent’s Mission. On a recent visit, she pointed out the 27 panels on the rooftop.

 

  

Bryce Baumann

A new bill in the Kentucky legislature could ban large-scale solar projects on farmland in the state, out of fears that the growing solar industry could be a detriment to the preservation of productive farmland. But a leading solar advocate in the state believes the bill is an overreaction and could significantly hamper the dawning solar industry. 

Republican State Sen. Steve West said the bill filed Monday is his way to address a long-term problem of increasing development destroying prime farmland for future generations, with large solar installations adding to that pressure. 

“What was once an income-producing property for the people of that county, is now possibly, you could say maybe an eyesore to the neighbor,” West said. He is also concerned that solar projects could degrade the farmland where projects are placed over time.

Adreanna Wills

The golden hue of the sunset shines across the sky and through the window as a woman drives down Van Meter Road in central Kentucky’s Clark County, passing by green rolling hills and hay bales.

In her social media video from early September, Adreanna Wills points out white signs in yards along the way, displaying the phrase “Industrial Solar” with a slash through the words. 

“Imagine these signs being ‘for sale’ signs in front of these properties instead of the signs demonstrating where they stand on this, because that’s probably what we’re looking at for some of these families,” said Wills, who runs the county animal shelter. 


David Monniaux, Wikimedia Commons

A new partnership between Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Habitat for Humanity aims to lower utility bills for 10 low-income families across the state by gifting them shares in a community solar field in Shelby County.

LG&E’s solar share program is for ratepayers who want solar energy, but for whatever reason can’t install it on their own properties. The program lets them pay a fee for a share of a large solar field and get a credit on their utility bills for the solar energy that share generates.

 


The Future Of Kentucky Solar Takes Shape in 2020

Dec 20, 2019
Ryan Van Velzer

In January, Kentucky utility regulators will begin accepting rate cases under the revised Net Metering Act, shaping the future of solar in the Commonwealth.

In a final order issued Wednesday, The Kentucky Public Service Commission said it will hire an outside consultant to help evaluate rates for new net-metering customers based on each utility’s specific costs.

“We’re going to hire a consultant because there are issues of first impression here that the commission is going to need some technical assistance with,” said Andrew Melnykovych, PSC spokesman.

 


City of Henderson Reviewing Plans For Solar Project

Nov 2, 2019
Duke Energy

After retiring the city-owned coal-fired power plant earlier this year, Henderson, Kentucky, is reviewing more than two dozen proposals to energize the city with solar power.

Henderson’s coal-fired power plant belonged to a vintage of older, smaller plants that went online in the 1970s. Historically it provided some of the cheapest electricity in the state, but market forces and maintenance costs eventually made plant operation unprofitable.

“Keeping the coal plant open as a coal plant was not in the financial interest of our customers,” said Henderson Municipal Power and Light General Manager Chris Heimgartner.

 


LG&E

With the latest rate hike, Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities customers will help pick up the tab for membership dues at trade groups that lobby against environmental protections.

Whether customers like it or not, LG&E’s natural monopoly guarantees that everyone buying service in their territory will pay into these trade groups, even if those groups lobby against customers’ own interests.

Net Metering Bill Returns To Kentucky Legislature

Feb 12, 2019
Gray Watson/Creative Commons

A Republican state senator has introduced net metering legislation that would require state regulators to set rates for the solar power that customers feed back into the electricity grid.

The measure would likely reduce the rate residential solar customers receive for providing excess power to the grid.

Utilities backing the measure say it ensures costs are kept low for all customers, while opponents, including the state’s burgeoning solar industry, say it would dramatically slow the adoption of solar in the state.

LG&E/KU

Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities are planning a new way to offer solar energy to residential customers.

The utilities are seeking permission from the Kentucky Public Service Commission to build a 4 megawatt community solar field in Shelby County. LG&E and KU ratepayers who want solar energy, but for whatever reason can’t install it on their own properties, can pay a fee for a share of the solar field and get a credit on their utility bills for the solar energy that share generates.

“We continue to see an increased interest from customers for renewable energy,” said LG&E spokeswoman Liz Pratt. “If this were to be approved, this type of program is ideal for customers who want to support local solar energy but are unable to install it on their own property or would prefer to avoid upfront or long-term costs. It’s especially appealing for renters or those customers who may have properties predominantly in shade or may have deed restrictions.”

David Monniaux, Wikimedia Commons

Fort Campbell is closer to breaking ground on an alternative energy project that will build the largest solar array in the state. 

Last week, project coordinators received the green light to break ground in two weeks’ time which will see installation of 5,814 solar modules on 25 acres generating over 2,466 megawatt-hours of electricity annually.  

Ft. Campbell Resource Efficiency Manager Dewayne Smith says the base’s electric utility, Pennyrile Rural Electric Co-op, is fronting the capital costs which will be paid back through the energy savings.  The array will generate a 5 megawatts capacity, alleviating some of the base’s 31 megawatt average monthly demand.

It's also part of a initiative under the American Renewable Energy Act requiring 25 percent of government installations’ power to be produced by renewables by 2025.  For Fort Campbell, those renewables include the solar array as well as a 20 megawatt biomass-burning plant.

The Public Service Commission has approved a solar power project planned by Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric in Mercer County.

A statement from the PSC says it authorized the utilities on Friday to build a 10-megawatt solar array at the E.W. Brown Generating Station, which would produce enough power to supply about 8,000 homes. It will consist of about 260 solar panels.

The statement says it is the first utility-scale solar power project in the state.

According to the PSC, the $36 million price of the solar array will be partially offset by tax credit and other factors, so it will have a "relatively minor" impact on rates.

LG&E serves 397,000 electric customers in the Louisville area and KU has 543,000 customers in 77 Kentucky counties.

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