Changing Needs in Changing Times
By now, many of you have probably heard of the large-scale solar energy solution being proposed right here in Hardin County. I have fielded several calls over the last few weeks from landowners across our service territory who are trying to gather more information about the options being offered by multiple companies throughout our communities. As I have tried to clarify for them, I will explain some key points here to help everyone have more understanding about all the factors at play.
In January, LG&E and KU filed an application with the Kentucky Public Service Commission requesting to enter into purchase power agreements that would result in the development of a 100 MW solar generation facility in southwestern Hardin County. Based on solar generation facilities that are already constructed and in production, this proposed site would be 10 times larger than any other in Kentucky. In summation, the filing by LG&E and KU accounts for a purchase power agreement from the company developing the solar generation facility (Rhudes Creek Solar, LLC), as well as for delivery of the produced renewable energy to their large industrial customers, in this case Toyota Motor Manufacturing and Dow Silicones Corporation.
It is my understanding that several solar energy management organizations have contacted landowners across our service area offering leasing solutions that would permit the potential installation of solar panels and equipment on their premises.
The most common question I have received has come in two variations: “I get my power from Nolin, but I’m being approached about installing solar.” (1) “Does Nolin have anything to do with this?” or (2) “Does that company have to sell the energy back to Nolin?” The short answer to both questions is “No.” Let me explain.
To answer the first question, Nolin RECC nor its generation and transmission provider, East Kentucky Power, are presently soliciting for the development of physical solar generation facilities in Nolin RECC service territory. This is not to say that we may not at some point, but as of now, this is not the case.
In response to the second question, an independent power producer, in this case Rhudes Creek Solar, can sell energy to any number of eligible utility buyers, in this case LG&E and KU, provided that the generation facility itself meets certain qualifying criteria. It is circumstantial happenstance that this solar site is being proposed right here in Nolin’s service territory. While this or very similar activity could, and eventually will, take place in other parts of the commonwealth, the fact that it is happening right here right now means nothing other than this particular body of circumstance presents an economically viable solution for all parties involved in the transaction.
Over time, we are likely to see more and more activity related to renewable energy solutions across our service territory and the entire state. As large companies, state governments, municipalities and utilities place increased emphasis on diversification of energy portfolios and alternative energy plans, the need to secure real-estate to develop these physical assets will multiply. Nolin RECC itself owns and operates a 2 MW solar field located at Fort Knox that has provided over 15,000,000 kWh of energy to support the needs of the Armed Forces and warfighters. That’s enough energy to power 1,000 average homes for an entire year. Additionally, each of our members has the opportunity to participate in Cooperative Solar, a solar installation owned by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives that covers 60 acres in Winchester. Licenses can be purchased on solar panels located at this farm with monthly bill credits being passed on to the member based on the output of the solar field.
While some folks are prone to progressive programs like solar technologies, others may be in favor of more traditional large-scale electric generation. I would encourage everyone to keep an open mind, as we find ourselves in a fast-paced and ever-changing energy market. One hundred years ago, our grandparents and great-grandparents watched Henry Ford turn the horse-drawn carriage and team plow into things of the past. Those drastic changes made such tremendous improvement to our way of life that many people reading this article don’t even know what a team plow is. The principal behind renewable and carbon-free energy technologies like solar, wind, and hydroelectric is that they help preserve our environment for generations to come. While there are many other factors involved, that sentiment is a good thing.
Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about activity going on in your area or if you are interested in learning more about Cooperative Solar. As always, we look forward to the learning opportunities that help us prepare better solutions to meet your needs.