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January

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Jan 12, 2012

New study shows diversifying into clean energy can create 28,000 jobs and save Kentuckians on electric bills in the future

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jan 12, 2012 08:21 AM

A new study estimates that in 10 years Kentucky could create over 28,000 jobs while lessening the growth of electricity bills by passing clean energy legislation currently in front of the General Assembly.

A new study estimates that in 10 years Kentucky could create over 28,000 jobs while lessening the growth of electricity bills by passing clean energy legislation currently in front of the General Assembly. Synapse Energy Economics produced the study, which is an analysis of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB 167) introduced by Representative Mary Lou Marzian.

 “This study confirms that legislation to diversify our electricity portfolio would be economically beneficial to Kentucky,” said Justin Maxson, President of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). “The bill would allow the state to hedge against increasing rates by making homes and businesses more energy efficient. And it would spur the creation of clean energy jobs installing renewable energy projects and making energy efficiency upgrades.”

“The era of cheap energy is coming to an end,” said Maxson, “and it is really a question of whether we in Kentucky take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the clean energy economy of the future.”

Synapse’s study is a high level analysis of the proposed legislation’s impacts on Kentucky’s electricity bills, jobs, and economy. The study concludes that making small but significant steps to begin diversifying Kentucky’s portfolio over the next ten years will lower the bills of Kentucky’s residents, business owners, and industrial facilities compared to their bills without a clean energy standard.

Synapse projects that, under the REPS, average annual electricity bills could be eight percent to 10 percent lower than under a do nothing scenario. In addition to saving Kentuckians money, the REPS would lead to over 28,000 net new jobs over and above any jobs lost in fossil fuels and add $1.5 billion to gross state product once fully implemented in 2022.

 “Efficiency and renewables are already the emerging trend in construction in the Commonwealth,” said Kentucky solar entrepreneur Matt Partymiller of Solar Energy Solutions in Lexington. “This report by Synapse captures what Kentucky engineers and contractors already know and what other states have already seen. Legislation like the Clean Energy Opportunity Act will provide the tools necessary for Kentucky builders to create jobs while ensuring Kentucky energy costs stay low.”

The study’s findings are supported by what neighboring states that have passed similar legislation have experienced. North Carolina has seen tremendous growth in the number of clean energy firms operating in their state since passing an REPS in 2007. Ohio built on the strengths of its traditional manufacturing sector to start building clean energy equipment in state, and reap real economic benefits from their 2008 law.

Synapse carried out the study for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, a Berea based economic development organization, and the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance, a coalition of over 50 businesses, affordable housing advocates, non-profit organizations and faith based groups. MACED and KySEA wanted to understand the economic impacts of an REPS in Kentucky, and a comprehensive analysis of a bill like the Clean Energy Opportunity Act has not been part of the policy conversation until now.

The report can be accessed at www.maced.org/files/Potential_Impacts_of_REPS_in_KY.pdf

Jan 06, 2012

WEKU: New Business Model for Solar Energy

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jan 06, 2012 09:19 AM
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This entry is cross-posted from the Appalachian Transition blog, where it appeared 1/5/12.

WEKU featured a story on the Berea Municipal solar farm yesterday, quoting Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance members from Solar Energy Solutions, MACED, and Alternative Energies Kentucky.  We're thrilled to see the Berea solar farm up and running, and glad good coverage like this story (and yesterday's post about Rockcastle Regional hospital's solar installation) are helping to show that solar powers Kentucky.  Congrats to all involved in this innovative, interesting project.

 

New Business Model for Solar Energy

In December, billionaire Warren Buffet made his first move into solar power, buying one of the world's largest solar farms, which is in California. Market watchers wondered if this was a sign that solar was coming of age, that it was no longer a "feel good" nod to environmental correctness but a sensible investment. Still, California isn't Kentucky and Buffet is hardly an average ratepayer. So, we looked at how solar was faring in the Commonwealth.

For many, solar just makes sense. Every day enough sunlight falls on the earth to provide energy independence for years. Solar promoters say it's just a matter of capturing that energy and turning it into power that can run everything from light bulbs to play stations. Of course it's not as simple as it sounds. In Kentucky, it's even less simple. After all, people reason, this isn't the Southwest where the sun shines all year round.  And coal has long provided us with some of the cheapest electricity in the world.

Still, solar is beginning to make its mark here and advocates predict there's more to come. Matt Partymiller a gray beard of Kentucky's solar energy industry, having started his solar energy solutions six years ago…

"We started out with two of us part time and six years later there are now ten of us full time and we hope to continue to develop that. If we continue to develop the way we have we'll be at 20 next year and that'll be great."

Partymiller says solar’s more competitive, even in Kentucky.

"We are seeing the cost of solar come down, we are seeing the speed at which solar is installed improve and we are seeing electric rates going up. It's just a matter of time before we as an industry end up competitive."

During his six years in the business, Partymiller says the cost of solar panels has been cut in half. 

His firm has just completed installing a unique solar system in Berea. The city-owned electric utility built a solar farm and offered shares to its customers.

In the first phase, an array of 60 solar panels was installed outside the municipal utility building.  For $750, utility customers can buy all the power generated by a single panel for 25 years.

Berea's the first community in Kentucky and one of the first in the nation to offer this approach. It has several advantages for solar-inclined ratepayers. First, it doesn't matter if a house has good sun exposure. Second, it's cheaper because there’s an economy of scale.  The cost is about $3.30 a watt compared to $5 to $6 if installed on a home.  Third, if ratepayers move within the utility's service area, the credit on their bill moves with them. Fourth, if they move outside the area, they can simply sell the balance of their leases to other customers.

No one was prepared for the reaction when the leases went on sale. Josh Bills, who’s a consultant with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, helped Berea design the system.

"It was really quite shocking to everybody involved, the utility, the contractors, the public, the council that the system leased out so quickly. There are 60 modules, there's a limit of two modules…..and in four days all 60 leases were subscribed."

The first array, as a group of solar panels is called, cost about $64,000 installed and was financed in part with federal stimulus money. Encouraged by the strong sales, Berea used the money from those leases to begin construction on a second array that is also selling rapidly.

Cool as this all sounds, customers are still bidding on a long payback. Assuming electric prices increase at the rate of 10 percent a year, it will take Berea ratepayers 23 years to recover their $750. For companies and individuals who can take advantage of tax breaks or subsidies on their projects, the payback could shrink to 8 to 10 years. With no moving parts, solar installations have limited maintenance, so the cost of electricity remains virtually the same over the entire life, which can be well over 25 years.

John Cotten directs marketing for Alternative Energies Kentucky.  It’s a Danville firm that manufactures and installs solar panels.

"It isn't dirt cheap, we're not going to tell anybody it is. You are making a longterm investment. It's no different if you were building a room addition on your house, you're not going to get the money back until you sell your house. In this case, though, you are going to start getting a return as soon as we turn the power back on….and that investment is going to last 25 to 50 years."

Cotten says the long payback is not as big an issue as whether there's enough sunlight in this sometimes gray state to make solar worthwhile.

"There is plenty of sunlight in Kentucky. That's a really large fallacy. We could probably retire with our company for every time we've heard that from different people but it's really not true. …actually the largest solar nation in the world right now is Germany. Germany's productive sunlight average per day is about 2.2 to 2.8 hours a day, Kentucky's runs anywhere from about 4.5 to 5.5 hours a day."

The problem in Kentucky, many experts say, is that we’re energy hogs. Conservation, they say, is the first and cheapest approach to reducing energy costs.

Steve Whitman, who’s the project manager on the Berea project…

"The first thing I tell everybody is do the easy things first. Tighten up your windows, get your insulation where it should be in your attic and your walls, do the caulking, do the steps that you should take to improve your energy efficiency. Then, if you have funds left over, this is one of the best longterm investments you can give to yourself." 

For Whitman, it's all about taking control of your energy future.

"I've been an electrician for over 35 years and I've been involved with solar for a little over a year….i think the key for the future is energy conservation…American's like to be empowered. If you realize that you could install a solar system and tie it into your home and see the savings and see the other ways you can save, I just think it's a way to empower people to do what you should be doing anyway."

To learn more about the Berea solar farm, go to http://bereautilities.com

2012 Clean Energy Opportunity Act Filed -- HB 167!

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jan 06, 2012 02:00 PM
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Representative Mary Lou Marzian (D-Jefferson) filed the 2012 Clean Energy Opportunity Act!  Be on the lookout for updates on HB 167 -- this year's Clean Energy Opportunity Act.  You can visit the LRC website for progress updates, or stay tuned here on the KySEA website as we continue to show our support for strong clean energy policy in Kentucky!

Jan 04, 2012

Solar Powered Health: Rockcastle Regional State's First Solar Powered Hospital

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jan 04, 2012 10:48 AM

Rockcastle Regional Hospital adds solar power to further commitment in creating a healthy community.

This entry is cross posted from the Appalachian Transition blog.

Business Lexington has a story today on Rockcastle Regional Hospital's new solar array.  It is a great example of a community institution taking advantage of clean energy opportunities in Kentucky--we hope to see other hospitals and community institutions following in the footsteps of Rockcastle Regional soon!

From BizLex:

Rockcastle Regional State's First Solar Powered Hospital

Mt. Vernon, Ky - Rockcastle Regional Hospital has become the first hospital in Kentucky to use the sun as a major energy source.

The hospital went live with a solar array on November 30, 2011, incorporating solar power into its energy management plan and reducing its reliance on the public power grid.

Rockcastle Regional Hospital CEO Stephen A. Estes said the investment fits into the hospital's mission of creating a healthy community.

 Rock Hosp pic

Facilities and Materials Management Director Gary Asher and CEO Stephen A. Estes with the new solar panels.

"We've built our organization on forward-thinking innovation. Now we've applied that mindset to energy management, and it creates a win-win for us and the community in the long term," Estes said. "As corporate citizens, we feel an obligation to conserve energy, and doing so frees more resources for patient care and wellness initiatives."

Discussions took place with several companies and Green Earth Solar of Knoxville, Tennessee was awarded the contract. Green Earth Solar was launched in 2006 and has completed dozens of solar projects including dairies, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, parks and residential areas. Rockcastle Regional is the company's first hospital project. 

Two hundred and ten solar modules have been installed on the roof of the hospital's Outpatient Services Center.  The modules will produce around 290 watts each (60.9 kW total) and will account for enough energy annually to power eight to ten homes.  Kentucky Utilities will purchase the power generated. 

The solar panels essentially will power the third floor of the Outpatient Services Center, which is a space that will be utilized for community wellness events.  The panels will also provide an educational experience for local students. 

Opening its doors in 1956, Rockcastle Regional Hospital & Respiratory Care Center is a not-for-profit community healthcare system that operates emergency, 26-bed inpatient acute beds and outpatient acute care programs, a 93-bed long-term care program for patients dependent upon mechanical ventilation and a medical office complex. For more information about the hospital, visit http://www.rockcastleregional.org

Jan 03, 2012

2012 Clean Energy Opportunity Act Filed!

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jan 03, 2012 07:45 PM
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Look out for HB 167!

Representative Mary Lou Marzian (D-Jefferson) filed the 2012 Clean Energy Opportunity Act!  Be on the lookout for updates on HB 167 -- this year's Clean Energy Opportunity Act.  You can visit the LRC website for progress updates, or stay tuned here on the KySEA website as we continue to show our support for strong clean energy policy in Kentucky!

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Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Adds Wind Power to Grid Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Adds Wind Power to Grid

Nolin RECC, serving Breckinridge, Bullitt, Grayson, Green, Hardin, Hart, LaRue, Meade and Taylor counties, has recently joined "the nation's quest to seek alternative energy sources," (source: www.nolinrecc.com). They have just installed a wind turbine at the RECC office, located on the Fort Knox miltary base. The turbine is part of a larger effort to use clean energy sources and efficiency to replace 35% of the total base electricity consumption in 2010.

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