In an ironic (but really awesome) twist, Berkeley Energy Group, a former Kentucky coal mining company, is planning on creating the state of Kentucky’s largest solar farm on a former removal site! The company is working with EDF Renewable Energy and former Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen to make the project happen.
The company is no longer in operation, but still owns thousands of acres in Kentucky. Their plan is to build the largest solar farm on an abandoned removal site on a mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, smack dab in the middle of coal mining country. The move will create some much-needed jobs in the economically distressed region.
Ryan Johns, an executive with Berkeley Energy Group told the Herald-Leader, “This is really a history-making project for the region. Bringing together major players in both coal and renewable energy to build a solar farm on a mountaintop removal site, creating opportunity for out-of-work miners, is a once-in-a-lifetime project.”
Due to the increasing use of natural gas and low-cost installation incentives for renewable energy like solar and wind power, coal production has nearly come to a compete stop over the past few years. Between 2015 to 2026 alone, coal production dropped by 40 percent, according to the Energy and Environment Cabinet in Kentucky. This has had a dramatic effect on the economy of the Appalachian region.
In a statement, EDF development manager, Doug Copeland said, “We have the opportunity to combine the strengths of both companies to bring jobs and economic development to Appalachia.” It’s not exactly known how many jobs would be created by the development of a solar farm at this time, however.
The company still needs to complete energy and geological studies to see how much potential for the creation of solar power exits at the site. These studies could take the rest of 2017 to complete. But, said Johns, “if it can be done, we’ll get it done.”
Eastern Kentucky, where Pike County is located, doesn’t get the amount of sunlight per year as the western areas of Kentucky. But, the companies believe that building the solar farm on top of a mountain is an ideal location. Building on this site will also enable the developers to work with PJM company’s power grid. PJM is on the cutting edge of helping homeowners obtain the resources to convert to renewable enery.
It’s very exciting to see a former coal company working to develop a solar power farm! Let’s hope many more gas, coal and electric companies follow their lead! As we all know, fossil fuels will not last forever! It’s way past time for the development of more renewable energy farms.