The Bluegrass State Is Turning To Renewables

State Economy

The population of the “Bluegrass State,” Kentucky is approximately 4.48 million people[1]. Kentucky is the 26th largest state in population 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 automobile, aerospace, agriculture, coal, chemical, and logistics industries[3].

Environment Policies

Kentucky is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) nor a goal. The state is one of only eighteen states that offers a commercial tax incentive program for renewable energy.

In December 2020, state utilities[4]  used coal (70.6%), natural gas (21.9%), and renewable energy (7.5%) to generate electricity. Hydropower, biomass and solar are the primary sources of renewable energy in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s use of coal subsidies[5] contributes to the state’s below average cost of electricity. In December 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in Kentucky was 10.55¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 12.89¢ 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 – In December 2020, Spanish renewable energy company, Acciona Energy announced plans to build a solar project in the northeastern region of the state. The project is scheduled to begin construction in 2021.
  • 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 December 2020, British utility, National Grid announced plans to build the Unbridled Solar Project in western region of the state. The project is scheduled to begin construction in 2022.
  • 60 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, 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 an integral part of Kentucky’s economy[6], since it was first commercially 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 only produce bituminous coal, which is primarily used by power plants to generate electricity.

Over the last fifteen years, Kentucky’s coal production has declined due to the relentless closure of coal-fired power plants in the region. Why the dramatic closure of coal-fired power plants in the United States?

  1. Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.
  2. Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[7].
  3. The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.

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 nation’s last bastions for “King Coal” to turn to 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] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Kentucky State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

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

[6] Kentucky Geological Survey – Coal Fact Sheet

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

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