Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Coal company says it wants to turn E. Ky. strip mine site into Appalachia's largest solar farm

Berkeley Energy Group photo of mine site
An Eastern Kentucky coal company on Tuesday said it wants to build Appalachia's largest solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop strip mine in far Eastern Kentucky.

The Berkeley Energy Group said the project, which is still in the early stages, would be the first large-scale solar project in Appalachia. It didn't say how much the project would cost; former state auditor Adam Edelen, who is involved, told The Rural Blog that it would require "tens of millions in capital investments and will be largely determined by the size of the project," which is still under evaluation. The key funding partner is EDF Renewable Energy, a major company.

Eastern Kentucky doesn't get as much sunlight as much of the nation, and has not been considered a hot spot for solar development. However, it gets as much as Germany, which is "the solar leader," Edelen said. One key to the project, he said, will be its access to eastern energy markets through PJM Interconnection, the regional electric-transmission organization that reaches as far as Newark and Norfolk. "Without PJM it would be much more difficult," Edelen said.

Ryan Johns, BEG project development executive, told James Bruggers of The Courier-Journal, "We are not looking at this as trying to replace coal, but we have already extracted the coal from this area." Edelen said the site is about 10 miles east of Pikeville, near Bent Mountain.

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