Editorial: Time to embrace renewable energy

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By The Kentucky Standard Editorial Board

Let’s face it, many of us want to do our part to save the environment by reducing carbon emissions. The problem is, it’s time consuming, expensive and equipment upkeep can be difficult for individual consumers. So when Salt River Electric announced lrecently that through an East Kentucky Power Cooperative project, co-op members will now have the opportunity to go partially solar, it was revolutionary for some. The $17.7 million project, when completed, will have 32,300 solar panels on 60 acres located in Clark County. It will be one of the state’s first utility-scale solar farms as the 16 member co-op pushes to provide more renewable energy options for its customers.

With this new option, any Salt River customer can pay $460 for a panel and receive a 25-year lease. The lease agreement will make it easier on customers because they won’t have to worry about installation, maintenance or possible damage. This renewable energy project will allow customers to not only feel good about reducing their carbon emissions, but they will also get a credit on their bill. This is just one example of a growing number of renewable energy projects being pushed by residential consumers and large manufacturers as well.

While history shows there was a time when large industries located in Kentucky because we had such low electricity rates due to coal-powered plants, there is a recent shift. Large corporations, both already in Kentucky and those looking to locate in the state, want renewable energy options. Toyota, one of the largest manufacturers in Kentucky, is looking for cleaner options to power its sprawling Georgetown plant. The facility is already piping methane gas from a Central Kentucky landfill to a generator that turns it into clean electricity. Now, they are researching fuel-cell technology and installing solar panels on the roof. The goal for Toyota is to not only save money but meet a global directive to be zero-carbon by 2050.

Even the Kentucky Coal Museum is on the solar bandwagon. The museum, located in Eastern Kentucky, installed 80 solar panels on its roof, which is projected to save over $8,000 annually in expenses. The project will also benefit approximately 500 residents in the small city of Benham, which is home to the coal museum. The city, which was once known as a “Cadillac coal camp,” is embracing solar power.

While 83 percent of Kentucky’s net electricity generation in 2016 was still coal-fired, the increasing demand for renewable energy by consumers large and small has arrived. We knew this day would come. It’s time for Kentucky finally to embrace the clean energy momentum.