Kentucky PSC approves state’s first major solar facility

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) on Dec. 19 approved the construction of the state’s first major solar-powered electric generating facility.

In an order issued Dec. 19, the PSC authorized Kentucky Utilities (KU) and Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) to build a 10-MW photovoltaic solar array at the coal-fired E.W. Brown station in Mercer County. The order approves an agreement reached by the two utilities and two other parties to the case: the Sierra Club and Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers Inc. The PSC said in a Dec. 22 statement that it found the agreement to be consistent with its own analysis of the case. The Kentucky Office of Attorney General was a party to the case but did not sign the agreement.

KU and LG&E originally had sought approval to construct both the solar array and a 670-MW, natural gas-fired power plant, to be built in Muhlenberg County. The latter project was canceled after nine municipalities that purchase wholesale power from KU decided to allow their contracts to expire over the next five years, reducing the utility’s load by about 325 MW. Although the loss of the municipal customers made the gas-fired power plant unnecessary, KU and LG&E stated that some new generating capacity would be needed to maintain adequate reserves. The solar plant would meet that need while providing insurance against both potential increases in the cost of fossil fuels and future constraints on CO2, the utilities said.

The $36m cost of the solar array will have a “relatively minor” impact on rates, the PSC said. The relatively higher initial investment required for the solar power project will be partly offset by tax credits and other factors.

The PSC agreed with KU and LG&E that adding solar powered capacity now will help prepare for any future requirements to reduce CO2 emissions produced by burning fossil fuels and has the ability to reduce potential future CO2 compliance costs.

The solar array will be built on a 153-acre parcel owned by KU just south of the E.W.Brown power plant. The array will consist of about 260 solar panels and associated transformers, switches and other equipment. KU will own 61% of the solar array and LG&E the remaining 39% – a split based upon the relative load of the two utilities during daylight hours.

KU and LG&E are both subsidiaries of PPL Corp. (NYSE: PPL).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.