Construction begins on the largest solar plant in Kentucky, Unbridled Solar

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Construction is well underway on what is set to be Kentucky’s largest solar plant, the Unbridled Solar Project. It is located in Webster and Henderson counties, 40 miles south of Evansville, Indiana and 160 miles southwest of Louisville. It is National Grid’s first project in the state. The state has been long dependent on coal-fired generation for power supply.

How much power will the project produce?

National Grid Renewables said the 160-MW project will provide approximately US$42 million in direct economic impact over the first two decades of the solar farm’s operation. Officials said the array is responsible for creating no less than 200 jobs. Furthermore, it will provide more than $11 million in new tax revenue for the region, along with more than $24 million to local farmers and landowners.

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Government data shows Kentucky ranks 43rd in the U.S. with just 172 MW of installed solar power capacity. That accounts for less than one-half of 1% of the state’s power generation. That accounts for less than one-half of 1% of the state’s power generation. Kentucky has no state mandates or targets for the use of renewable energy resources. Additionally, it has no operating utility-scale wind power generation.

Companies behind the Unbridled Solar project in Kentucky

Big Rivers Electric Corp has partnered with Wanzek Construction on the project’s build. Both companies came to a power purchase agreement on the solar farm. “We’re both proud and excited to be constructing the largest solar renewable energy project in the state of Kentucky. Unbridled is our first project within the state and exemplifies our commitment to the clean energy transition and the benefits it provides to rural economies in the form of new tax revenue and jobs throughout America,” said Blake Nixon, President of National Grid Renewables.

The Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities power projects

Unbridled, however, may not be the state’s largest solar farm for long. State regulators recently approved a solar plant proposal by Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities (LG&E/KU). This will see the installation of 877 MW of solar generation capacity, along with 500 MWh of battery energy storage, in the coming years.

Additionally, the project will see the production of a smaller amount of natural gas electricity, amounting to around 640MW. This will be built by the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC). The two companies will use this electricity generated to replace two existing coal-fired generating units. They have reportedly become too expensive to operate because of the federal environmental regulations that protect human health.

LG&E and KU Energy welcomes the sun at new array

According to Byron Gary, Kentucky Resources Council attorney, the cheapest and most environmentally friendly megawatt is the one you never have to generate in the first place.

For that reason, the PSC approved LG&E and KU’s plans to offer the largest number of energy efficiency programs in the companies’ history. The programs expand benefits for low-income customers to weatherize their homes. Furthermore, conducting energy audits, and installing efficiency measures like smart thermostats. They also received approval for appliance recycling programs. In its entirety, the programs are designed to offset nearly 200 MW of electricity.