Mountaintop Removal Site Could Become Kentucky’s Largest Solar Farm

Written by Cassie Kelly and reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

Kentucky, like most of the Appalachian region, has been in economic distress since the bust of the coal mining industry. But, new hope for jobs and the ravaged environment may come in the form of the state’s largest solar farm.

The company spearheading the initiative, Berkeley Energy Group, used to be a coal mining company and still owns thousands of acres of land in the area, including the abandoned mountaintop removal site in Pike County, Kentucky, just outside of Pikeville in the heart of coal country. Berkeley Energy is working with EDF Renewable Energy and former Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen to build a 50-100 megawatt farm right on top of the old mine. The project was announced on Tuesday.

“This is really a history-making project for the region,” said Ryan Johns, an executive with Berkeley Energy Group.

“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,” Edelen told the Herald-Leader.

Coal production has drastically dropped over the last few years since the boom of natural gas and lower installation costs for renewables. According to Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, in 2016 alone, coal production in the region, including Pike County, dropped by 40 percent from 2015, and the number of coal jobs in the county decreased by 30 percent.

“We have the opportunity to combine the strengths of both companies to bring jobs and economic development to Appalachia,” Doug Copeland, EDF development manager, said.

Though the developers aren’t sure how many jobs would be supplied by the solar farm, the project would be a massive undertaking and several hundred acres would be used to operate the facility.

Pike County is in eastern Kentucky, which doesn’t get quite as much annual sunlight as western parts of the state. But, building it in this specific location would help the developers work with the electric grid supplied by PJM, an electric company that works with homeowners to allocate renewable energy resources.

But, before they can establish anything with PJM, the developers must complete geological and energy studies to measure the potential for solar on the property. EDF said this could take until the end of the year. But, Johns said, “if it can be done, we’ll get it done.”

71 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla1 years ago

This would be great!

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Telica R
Telica R1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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heather g
heather g1 years ago

Canada also seems to have no laws that require companies to restore the natural environment and clean up all polluted soil when a business closes. It's the taxpayer who has to foot the bill - every time. Making people accountable is not the way businesses are run here.

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william Miller
william Miller1 years ago

Thanks

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Lori Hone
Lori Hone1 years ago

People just need to change with the times and everyone can win, hanging onto any out date way (ie coal mining) refusing to look outside the box (solar pays well) is an idiot.

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chris b
chris B1 years ago

Yes, Nancy - would be nice to have more trees, but with solar you can power so many homes, businesses and not drill for oil, gas, coal. You can always have organic produce farms around the solar panels. Grow something green.

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Nancy BIELECKIE
Nancy BIELECKIE1 years ago

While I support the efforts of going solar, I think that the areas that were mined should return to forest. Solar panels should be being placed on houses and places of business instead of taking valuable real-estate that should be for parks and healing our environment. Our encroachment on our wild places has put many species at risk and we really need to address this issue for now and future generations.

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Brian F
Brian F1 years ago

It's really sad that over 500 mountaintops have been destroyed by these greedy dirty coal companies, and they refuse to replant the natural trees they destroyed. Although I support the idea of a of a solar farm, these mountains never should have been allowed to be destroyed to begin with. Dirty coal is never coming back, and it's time we end dirty coal mining, and blasting mountaintops, and destroying them, and transition into clean renewable energy like wind and solar that provide more jobs than dirty oil. coal, and natural gas combined according to the Department of Energy.

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Carl R
Carl R1 years ago

thanks!!

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