An Eastern Kentucky coal mining company on Tuesday announced its plans to build what could become the state’s largest solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop strip mine, promising jobs for displaced coal miners and energy production.
The Berkeley Energy Group and EDF Renewable Energy are working to explore what they’re billing as the first large-scale solar project in Appalachia. They’re focused on two mountaintop-removal mining sites outside Pikeville, where engineering and feasibility studies are underway for a 50- to 100-megawatt project.
By comparison, that could be five to 10 times are big as LG&E and KU Energy’s 10-megawatt solar farm at its Brown station in Mercer County. That Central Kentucky array has 45,000 solar panels on 50 acres that company officials have said can provide energy for about 1,500 homes. The Kentucky Public Service Commission last year also approved an 8.5-megawatt solar farm for East Kentucky Power in Winchester.
Ryan Johns, BEG project development executive, said it’s too soon to say how many jobs the solar project might support, but solar power jobs have been expanding quickly across the country. He said EDF has found there will be plenty of sun to generate electricity in the area.
Johns and former Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen came up with the idea and are working on it together.