Solar Surge In The Bluegrass State

State Economy

The population of the “Bluegrass State,” Kentucky is approximately 4.48 million people[1]. Kentucky is the 26th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Kentucky’s economy was ranked 28th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the manufacturing, agriculture, coal, and logistics industries[3].

Environment Policies

Kentucky is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard nor a renewable energy  goal[4].

In March 2021, Kentucky utilities[5] used coal (68.7%), natural gas (24.2%), and renewable energy (7.1%) to generate electricity. Hydropower, biomass and solar are the primary types of renewable energy in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s coal subsidies[6] contribute to the state’s below average cost of electricity. In March 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in Kentucky was 11.02 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.29 ¢ per kWh.

Although coal is still “king,” Kentucky is slowing making progress in the development of green energy. Recent renewable energy developments in the state include:

  • 188 MW Solar Project – Spanish renewable energy company, Acciona Energy is continuing work on the Fleming County Solar Project at a site approximately 60 miles east of the state capital, Frankfort. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 173 MW Solar + 30 MW Energy Storage Project – In March 2021, the U.S. Federal Corporation, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced plans to build a solar plus energy storage project in the southern region of the state. The project is scheduled to begin construction in 2022.
  • 160 MW Solar Project – In June 2021, British utility, National Grid received approval from the Kentucky Public Service Commission to build the Unbridled Solar Project at a site approximately 120 miles west of Frankfort. The project is scheduled to begin construction in 2022.
  • 60 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, American renewable energy company, Carolina Solar Energy announced plans to build the Horseshoe Bend Solar Farm in the central region of the state. The project is scheduled to begin construction in 2022.
  • 2.04 MW Mini-Hydro Project – In May 2020, Kentucky company, Lock 7 Hydro Partners filed plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to renovate the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station, which has been closed since 2006. The FERC is expected to approve this low impact hydroelectric project.

Conclusions

Coal has been a major component of Kentucky’s economy[7], since it was first mined in 1820. Coal was initially used to fuel forges, furnaces, and steam engines.

In 2020, Kentucky ranked 5th in total coal production and 5th in total coal reserves in the United States. Kentucky’s coal mines produce bituminous coal, which is primarily used by power plants to generate electricity.

In 2010, 93.1% of Kentucky’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[8]. In March 2021, 68.7% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[9].
  2. EconomicsThe cost to generate power from coal without subsidies is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like solar.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

The move to renewable energy across America is being driven by concerns over climate change, environment, and economics.  Economics are causing more utilities in Kentucky, one of the last bastions for “King Coal” to turn to solar and other types of renewable energy.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Kentucky Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Kentucky – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Kentucky State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6] https://subsidytracker.goodjobsfirst.org/hq_state/Kentucky

[7] Kentucky Geological Survey – Coal Fact Sheet

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Kentucky Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

[9] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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