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Apr 13, 2012

In the news...

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Apr 13, 2012 01:08 PM

Solar manufacturing jobs come to Edmonson County, KY
Taggart Solar LLC recently announced that it plans to locate a manufacturing plant in Edmonson County. A $440,000 investment, the plant will sustain 30 full-time workers. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity to Edmonson and several other Kentucky counties, offers large financial incentives for renewable energy production in it service area. These incentives make it more attractive for solar manufacturing companies to locate there.

Kentucky Center to install Green Roof
The Kentucky Center for the Arts plans to “green” its 76,000 square foot roof quite literally. It will be covered with a special type of soil and sedum plants, which soak up water and provide insulation lowers air- conditioning bills. Center staff hopes to implement a pubic education project along with the new roof. An estimated 500,000 people visit the center each year.


U.S. Department of Defense Spends Big on Clean Energy
The U.S. Department of Defense invested billions in clean energy innovations between 2006 and 2009 – an increase of nearly 200% from pre-2006 spending levels. Projects include major efficiency efforts and large renewable installations at bases. For example, DoD is partnering with Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative to make efficiency improvements and install solar and geo-thermal systems at the Fort Knox base.  (Department of Defense Accelerates Clean Energy Innovation to Save Lives, Money, Pew Study 2011.)

Mar 28, 2012

Clean Energy Opportunity Act - Gets Hearing

by Lauren McGrath — last modified Mar 28, 2012 10:52 AM

by Lisa Abbott

Legislators heard testimony today about the benefits of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB 167) during a hearing before the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee. KFTC members and our allies in the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance have made HB 167 a high priority, and many were on hand in the packed committee room to show support. Although no vote was taken, the hearing was an important opportunity to inform legislators and build support for the future.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mary Lou Marzian introduced the bill, noting, "Thank you for allowing us to bring this important issue for discussion. This is a piece of legislation about job creation in Kentucky. Twenty-nine other states have passed this kind of policy that is called a renewable and efficiency portfolio standard. These policies have been shown to stabilize rates and create jobs. And those would be jobs that could stay in Kentucky."

Rick Hornby of Synapse Energy Economics presented a summary of a report his firm recently did about the potential economic impact of HB 167 on jobs and electricity rates in Kentucky over the next 10 years. "Kentucky is facing an electricity challenge. A number of utilities are looking at retrofitting some coal-fired plants. Some are planning to retire coal plants. Some of those retirements will be replaced with new generation, largely natural gas. Our study projects that Kentucky is looking at increases in average electricity supply costs on the order of 50%. Adding renewable energy and energy efficiency to your mix will help Kentucky turn this challenge into an opportunity. As I say, it will help. There is no silver bullet."

Hornby touched on several highlights of the Synapse report, including:

  • The energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements contained in HB 167 could generate 28,000 net new jobs over the next 10 years.
  • Under any scenario – whether this bill passes or it doesn't – utility rates in Kentucky are going to go up significantly.
  • Average electric bills in Kentucky are projected to be 8-10% lower at the end of 10 years as a result of HB 167 than they would be under a business-as-usual scenario.

Chris Woolery, who works with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), also testified in support of the measure. "I'm one of those contractors that could definitely have benefited from legislation like this. As a former Energy Star home-builder, I learned about the importance of energy efficiency. Then when the market crashed I went into energy retrofit work."
Woolery described his job doing home energy audits and retrofits in eastern Kentucky. "I'm now working with How$mart Kentucky. We work with four rural electric co-operatives in eastern Kentucky to do on-bill financing for energy improvements. With these co-ops we do whole house audits and energy upgrades, and we create a savings that the customer uses to pay for the improvements."
Woolery described some of the results of the How$mart program in the past year:

  • reached customers in 23 counties.
  • retrofitted 57 houses.
  • saving people 25-37% on their bills.
  • savings of $550 per year on average per family.
  • Over 40% of the families the program has worked with are low to moderate income.
IMG_0393

David Brown Kinloch, a renewable energy developer in Kentucky, also spoke before the committee. He emphasized the importance of a portion of the bill – called a feed-in tariff – that is designed to spur  investment in renewable energy projects. "A feed-in tariff will allow companies like mine to finance projects and sell power into the grid here in Kentucky. There is tremendous opportunity in Kentucky, and this bill just allows that opportunity to be harvested."

The testimony generated a number of comments and questions from members of the Tourism Development and Energy Committee. Chairwoman Leslie Combs from Pike County voiced concern about the troubling projections that utility rates are projected to rise steeply under any scenario.

"Consumers are consistently concerned about the fact that their rates are going up, today," she stated. "They don't want their rates to go up any more, and if anything they would like them to come down. But according to this chart, under any scenario, the rates go up. Period. I realize that's kind of the way things are, but at the same time it's hard to explain to the consumers who are saying, 'stop raising our rates.'
Hornby acknowledged that difficult reality. "I very much understand. It would be nice to be able to come in and say that. But the numbers are the numbers. Kentucky has a big challenge. Over the next several years, no matter what, your rates are going to go up by some amount. 

What efficiency and renewables can do is give your ratepayers some ability to respond to those increases. If you use less, your bill won't go up as much even as rates rise, and we are going to help you use less."
Rep. Keith Hall from Pike County concluded the testimony on HB 167 with a note of praise. "I want to commend Rep. Marzian for bringing this measure before the committee. And to the gentleman who spoke about energy efficiency, that's a very good program. This has been a very worthwhile conversation, and I want to commend the Madam Chairperson for having it."

Mar 05, 2012

Radio show in eKY describes benefits of clean energy

by Lisa Abbott — last modified Mar 05, 2012 10:03 AM

A public affairs program on WMMT-FM, a community radio station based in Whitesburg, focused last week on the benefits of clean energy policies that are currently under consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly.

You can listen to the program here.

The talk show features Nathan Hall, a resident and biodiesel entrepreneur in Floyd County, and Matt Partymiller, operator of a solar energy firm based in central Kentucky. The two described ways that stronger state energy policies can create jobs across the state and help families, farms and businesses save money by saving energy.

Thanks to WMMT-FM, Nathan and Matt, and others who called into the program with questions and information.

 

Mar 01, 2012

KySEA Lobby Day - A Success!

by Lauren McGrath — last modified Mar 01, 2012 02:50 PM

More than 60 citizen lobbyists came to Frankfort on Tuesday, February 28, to talk to legislators about the promise of clean energy.

The Clean Energy Lobby Day was hosted by the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA), a coalition of 52 organizations working to pass clean energy policy that would stem rising energy rates and create thousands of new jobs.  KySEA includes small businesses, faith communities, housing groups, MACED, environmental groups, and even individuals.

Lobby Day

It was an incredible day.  Participants from around the state met with more than 50 different legislators to discuss House Bill 167, the Clean Energy Opportunity Act.  Sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, the bill would establish benchmarks for increasing the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Kentucky over the next ten years.  It would also establish payment rates for renewable energy to encourage renewable energy industries to locate in Kentucky and create new jobs.

Many surrounding states have already passed such measures, and new jobs in clean energy are going to Ohio and North Carolina instead of Kentucky.

EKU students John Bowers and Emily Justus, and Nick Johnson, a U of Louisville student lobbied for the first time.  Nick told his senator, Robert Leeper of Paducah, about the Synapse Economics study which projects 28,000 additional job-years in Kentucky by 2022 if the bill is passed.  When he came out of the meeting, Nick said “I think I know how to do public speaking.  And now I’m going to learn how to be better at lobbying legislators.”

Emily Justus, a native of Pike County, said she came to Frankfort to “show our support and learn about the whole process.”  John Bowers of Berea said, “I’m very much for clean energy. I think that’s the wave of the future and the direction we need to go.”

Each legislator who met with KySEA representatives was given a packet of information about HB 167 and its projected benefits.  Most KySEA participants reported a fairly favorable response from their legislators.

The Clean Energy Opportunity Act is assigned to the House Tourism, Development and Energy Committee.  One strategy of the lobby day was to press for the bill to get a hearing, and we have learned that our efforts were successful on that. The bill will get a hearing in committee in the next few weeks!  

So, we ask all the wonderful KySEA activists to stay tuned, and come back to the Capitol complex to attend the hearing.

Feb 22, 2012

Feb 28th: Join us in Building Kentucky's Clean Energy Momentum

by Lauren McGrath — last modified Feb 22, 2012 12:55 PM


Kentuckians are ready to reap the benefits of clean energy. Energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions are already working in Kentucky to reduce energy costs, create jobs and improve our health and well-being. But new policies are needed before we can realize the full benefits of this transition.. We can’t afford for Kentucky’s workers, families and businesses to be left behind as other states ramp up their investments in one of the fastest growing sectors of our national economy.

Your voice is needed to urge Kentucky’s General Assembly to pass HB 167, the Clean Energy Opportunity Act. 

Solar Capitol InstallHB 167, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, asks utilities in Kentucky to gradually increase the share of their electricity mix that comes from renewables and energy efficiency. A recent study projects that over the next ten years this could create 28,000 net new jobs and result in lower average bills, compared to the “do nothing” scenario. 

Here are two ways you can help support this important legislation:

1) Call the toll-free message line (1-800-372-7181) and leave a message for your state Senator and state Representative. A suggested message is: It’s time to invest in clean energy solutions that can put Kentuckians to work and curb energy costs for families, farms and businesses. Please support HB 167.”

2) Come to Frankfort on Tuesday, February 28 to participate in a lobby day sponsored by the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance. You don’t have to be an expert. We’ll provide materials and a quick orientation in Room 113 of the Capitol Annex starting at 9 a.m. Then you’ll set out in small groups to talk with legislators about the benefits of HB 167 and clean energy solutions. Please let us know if you plan to attend by registering here - https://docs.google.com/a/kftc.org/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dHVFd2xkSTJfY2h2cUZSb1JRZHVPemc6MQ#gid=0 

 

More Information:

More information about HB 167 and the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance can be found at www.kysea.org

A factsheet about HB 167 can be found here: http://www.kysea.org/legislative-policy-work

A recent article by Matt Partymiller, operating manager of Solar Energy Solutions, can be found here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/02/14/2067838/ky-voices-encourage-power-companies.html#storylink=misearch

A copy and executive summary of the recent study about the jobs potential of HB 167 can be found here: http://www.maced.org/REPS-release.htm

 

Clean Energy Tour and Reception Held in Frankfort

by Lauren McGrath — last modified Feb 22, 2012 09:50 AM

On February 13, KySEA organized a Clean Energy Tour and Legislative Reception in Frankfort to engage legislators and members of the public about the importance and benefits of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act. 

The reception included a presentation by architect Kenny Stanfield about Richardsville Elementary in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the nation’s first net-zero energy public school. Richardsville Elementary was designed to use 75% less energy than a typical school and uses a grid-tied solar photovoltaic system to generate as much power as the school requires each year. Significantly, the school cost 20% less to build than a typical school before adding the solar PV. Even after the PV was added, the school still cost less to build. After more than a year of operation the school is performing as-designed and has no electric bills. The architect estimates that the school district is saving about $150,000 per year on energy bills, as compared to a conventional school.

The reception attracted over 70 participants and 16 legislators and included an awards ceremony honoring those who’ve shown leadership and innovation in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Award recipients included Rep. Rocky Adkins, Kenny Stanfield and Warren County Public Schools (for the Richardsville Elementary School design), and Berea Municipal Utilities & City Commission for the Berea Solar Farm.

Blog by Andy McDonald, Kentucky Solar 

Feb 16, 2012

Clean Energy Solutions Key to Growing KY’s Economy

by Lauren McGrath — last modified Feb 16, 2012 02:35 PM

Kentucky is sitting on a veritable goldmine of clean energy resources waiting to be tapped.  Every corner of the state - from our farmlands to our cities - has the potential to be major players in clean energy, one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the U.S. today.

All we need is a little help from our elected officials. They need to pass the Clean Energy Opportunity Act.  The Act would encourage Kentucky’s power companies to expand clean energy and energy efficiency efforts across the state, creating thousands of new jobs and lowering utility bills for Kentuckians from Paducah to Pikeville.

Matt slideAs the owner of a solar energy company based in Lexington, I have seen first hand how clean energy creates jobs and saves Kentuckians money.  In our 6 years in businesses, we have installed solar energy systems on dozens of homes and multiple other buildings throughout the state.  These systems help lock-in energy prices for our customers who had been facing ever-increasing utility bills.  Thanks to growing demand for solar energy, our company has added eight new employees in the last two years. 

We are just one of many clean energy companies in Kentucky that are expanding operations, creating jobs and helping Kentuckians stabilize and lower their energy bills.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Kentucky’s clean energy job market is nominal compared to surrounding manufacturing states like Ohio and North Carolina that have already passed legislation similar to the Clean Energy Opportunity Act.

Today, Ohio is home to more than 9,000 renewable energy jobs and was second in the nation last year for solar panel manufacturing and installation.  In fact, there are twice as many solar installations in Cincinnati alone as there are in the entire state of Kentucky. Clean energy has been so successful in Cincinnati that the city is considering purchasing 100% of its energy from renewable sources.  Since 2007, North Carolina has added 15,000 clean energy jobs (a 30% increase every year) and created 1,200 new clean energy businesses.

These numbers reflect the U.S. economy as a whole.  According to a recent Brookings Institute report, as of 2010 there were more than 800,000 people employed in the clean energy sector, and during the 2008-2009 economic recession, the clean energy economy grew faster than the U.S. economy as a whole, expanding at a rate of 8.3%.  A 2009 study by Pew Charitable Trusts found that between 1998 and 2007, clean energy jobs grew by 9.1% while overall jobs grew only by 3.7%.  And in 2008, venture capital investment in the U.S. clean energy economy was $5.9 billion, a 48% increase over 2007 investment totals.

Kentucky could get in on this action.  According to report released last month by Synapse Energy Economics, passing the Clean Energy Opportunity Act could create 28,000 new jobs in Kentucky and keep electricity rates 8-10% lower than current projections.

 We don’t have time to lose.  In 2010 alone, Kentucky lost $3.5 million in solar installation contract dollars to out-of-state companies for work done in Kentucky. And of the $12.5 billion in venture capital invested in clean energy from 1998-2007, exactly $0 was invested in Kentucky.

 We cannot allow these business opportunities and jobs to go to other states. We need to keep them where they belong – right here in Kentucky. According to a 2011 study by the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, the majority of clean energy jobs are full-time positions that require no more than a high school education.  These jobs also span all types of trades and professions – including construction workers, manufacturers, engineers, IT specialists, and building energy assessors.

Passing the Clean Energy Opportunity Act wouldn’t just create jobs, it would also save Kentuckians millions of dollars on energy bills over the next 10 years due to expanded energy-efficiency efforts.  This would be welcome relief to Kentuckians whose average electricity rates have increased 47% over the past 5 years, and especially to low-income households that spend more than 20% of their income on energy. 

It’s time we get serious about building Kentucky’s clean energy economy and pass the Clean Energy Opportunity Act. We can’t afford NOT to.

 

Matt Partymiller is the Operating Manager of Solar Energy Solutions, a Lexington-based solar energy service provider.

 

Feb 01, 2012

Can weather stripping and caulk help you get healthy?

by Lauren McGrath — last modified Feb 01, 2012 04:09 PM

The answer is yes, according to research compiled and released this week by the health experts and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.  The “Health Impact Assessment on Coal and Clean Energy Options in Kentucky” is a review of health and scientific data and perspectives from Kentuckians on the specific health impacts – positive and negative – associated with our energy policy options.  Health impact assessments (HIAs) are designed to be tools for government decision makers and other stakeholders when considering public policies that affect our health, but occur outside of the health sector. 

PSHH solar home

 

It turns out that energy efficiency and renewable energies from sources like solar, wind and hydro could have both indirect and direct benefits to public health.  Much of the benefits of efficiency and renewables come in the avoidance of pollution created and released from fossil fuels and their chemical byproducts; pollution that is linked to heart and respiratory diseases, birth defects, developmental disabilities and even tooth decay.   By contrast, wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric dams do not release any pollution.  But some direct benefits include improved general health and increased productivity from home weatherization and less eyestrain, headaches and other illnesses from energy efficient lighting.  

With health care costs are high and getting higher, and Kentucky is among the least healthy states, we should be looking for every opportunity to improve our health.  Recent polling data shows that Kentuckians want our legislators to prioritize public health improvements.  Energy efficiency and renewable energy reduce pollution that makes us sick, and that’s a powerful reason to support clean energy policies for our state.  

Let’s encourage Kentucky legislators to consider clean energy policies as if our health really matters…because it does!

You can find the HIA at:  http://kyenvironmentalfoundation.org.

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

2012 Clean Energy Opportunity Act Filed -- HB 167!

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jan 06, 2012 02:00 PM
Filed Under:

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!

WEKU: New Business Model for Solar Energy

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jan 06, 2012 09:19 AM
Filed Under:

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

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
Filed Under:

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!

Dec 21, 2011

Sustainable Energy Briefs

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Dec 21, 2011 08:16 PM

Kentucky falls in national energy efficiency ranking
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently ranked 37th out of all states on its annual state energy efficiency scorecard. This represents a step down from previous years’ rankings. In 2010, Kentucky was 36th and in 2009 it was 33rd. The rankings are based on an array of metrics including state levels of funding towards energy efficiency and best practices in state energy efficiency policy and program implementation.

Fort Knox Army Base partners with EKPC’s Nolin Rural Electric Co-op to Install Clean Energy Systems
Over the last two years, Fort Knox has partnered with the co-op to create a plan to reduce energy use 35% by this year. The plan included energy efficiency upgrades, a major solar installation, and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system placed in the base barracks. Annual savings from the energy plan is estimated to be $2.8 million. Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Industrial Efficiency Efforts in Richmond, KY Saves Money For Sherwin Williams Plant
Sherwin-Williams is the largest producer of paint in the United States today.  The company owns over 3,000 stores throughout North America, with one of its largest plants located in Richmond, KY.  The Kentucky-based Sherwin Williams plant is doing something unique – it’s leading the way on industrial efficiency.

In 2008, via a partnership with the Division of Energy’s Industrial Technology Program, Sherwin William began the process of launching an energy reduction program.  By the 2010 the plant had reduced its total energy consumption by over 25% - with the potential to reduce energy intensity to 50% as more improvements are brought online.  Source: Personal interview by Lauren McGrath of Sierra Club with plant engineer

Energy Improvements Can Save Money and Create Jobs in Cincinnati Area, Study finds
Energy efficiency upgrades to the area's homes and non-profit buildings can save area residents $60 million in lower energy bills and create more than 300 local jobs, according to a study released last month by the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance. The study looked at the economic impact of energy efficiency investments to the metropolitan area, which includes the Kentucky counties of Boone, Campbell, and Kenton.

Nov 30, 2011

What's a Meter Geek?

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Nov 30, 2011 01:17 PM
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By Sam Avery, of Avery and Sun, a KySEA group member

When was the last time you looked at your electric meter?  If you’re like most people, you don’t even know where it is, but if you’re a Meter Geek, you’re likely to answer: “This morning.”

I became a Meter Geek the day I hooked up the PV system on my own house.  I just stood there watching the numbers bounce around.   Dan joked: “Where’s Sam…?  Oh, he’s over playing with his inverter.”  I still check it every day or so.

But I’m not the only one.  I just got an email from Dennis and Wendy:  “Yesterday morning the electric meter read one kilowatt hour less than the day you all hooked up the panels. I doubt that we will ever have to pay more than the basic rate again. Thanks. It is a great feeling.”

And then there’s Don.   (We installed his system a couple of years ago.)  He had one of the old rotating wheel meters.  He called me up one day to tell me that, with the sun shining and just the right number of lights on and the coffee maker brewing, he could run outside and watch the wheel come to a perfect balance.  It tried to edge one way or the other until the coffee was ready, and then it resumed its backward march.  He used to invite friends over just to stand outside and watch it with him.

When you install solar, you get rewired.  You pay attention to things you did not notice before.  You watch what the clouds are doing, how the shadows play, and wonder how many kilowatt-hours you’re likely to produce today.  You think about the sun bringing life into your home.  More importantly, you think about where the new energy is going.  It’s yours – for free – but there’s only so much and you don’t want to waste it.  You want to have enough for how you live but you want to live by what is there.

The most important thing about being a Meter Geek is that you begin to see energy as energy – not just as a bill you have to pay.  You stop converting it into dollars.  It falls on your roof, you gather it up, and turn it into lighting, music, vacuum cleaning, computing, televiewing, or coffee brewing.  You’re not buying anything – and not mining or burning anything, either.  And you’re paying attention to how energy flows through your life.  If you don’t have a way to produce energy and you’re trying to conserve, it’s all yin and no yang – it’s all going one way and you’re trying to slow it down but you can’t make it stop.  But when energy flows both ways you see the yin and the yang.  You feel the balance. 

The reason I’m raising this topic now is that I am about to have the consummate Meter Geek experience.  The day I installed my system – the day I became a Meter Geek – my electric meter read 3432 kilowatt-hours.  That was November 2007.  The PV system has been cranking out kwh ever since, more than I have been using, and today, Aug 25 , the meter reads 00008.   By the time you read these words it will have gone to 00000, and I have no idea what happens after that!  It’s another Y2K.  I’m a little afraid it will read 99 million or something, and some computer will spit me out a bill for $ 9 million or so.  I have no idea.  I’ll be finding out soon, but you won’t find out until….

Nov 14, 2011

KySEA Groups Discuss Upcoming Legislative Session

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Nov 14, 2011 04:27 PM

About half of KySEA member groups attended a meeting in Lexington on Monday, November 7th, to discuss the upcoming 2012 Kentucky legislative session.

Thirty three representatives from 23 KySEA member groups participated in lively discussion about how to move the Clean Energy Opportunity Act forward this session and about how to support other opportunities that might arise to advance clean energy in the state.

The group heard preliminary findings about a Health Impact Assessment from the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, which shows the health advantages for Kentucky of moving to clean energy.

Curtis Stauffer, of Metropolitan Housing Coalition, also presented about a recent report from the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, entitled the 2011 State of Metropolitan Housing Report. It looked at a variety of factors surrounding affordable housing in the Metro Louisville area, focusing particularly on approaches to providing fair and affordable housing that uses less energy.  

Housing and CO2

He showed the graphic above to highligh that denser housing types in transit oriented developments are significantly more energy efficient than less dense housing types in suburban style development.  And, green, energy efficient  building practices- significantly reduce home energy use in all types of developments.

Those present at the KySEA meeting agreed that Kentucky needs better solutions both in building new homes and retrofitting existing homes in order to lower people's energy bills. With electricity rates rising across the state, this will be a topic of much consideration during the next session. And the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, supported by KySEA offers some of those solutions.

 

Nov 01, 2011

Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance Meeting

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Nov 01, 2011 11:17 AM

Monday, November 7th, 2011
10 am to 4 pm
Northside Library Branch
1733 Russell Cave Road
Lexington, KY


The Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance will host its fall meeting on November 7th. The agenda will include:

-Preview of the 2012 legislative session: Perspectives from key KySEA members including a green energy business and an affordable housing provider, as well as opportunities to plug into KySEA's legislative work

-Overview of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act

-Two exciting presentations on reports related to clean energy by Metropoltan Housing Coalition and Kentucky Environmental Foundation.

Bring a brown bag lunch. We hope you will join us.

Please RSVP by clicking here.

Oct 25, 2011

Join Us: Solar Energy To Be Discussed in Frankfort Tomorrow!

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 25, 2011 04:36 PM

The interim joint committee on local government will host a "discussion on solar energy" tomorrow, October 26th, in Frankfort at 10 am in the Capitol Annex room 171.

 

Join us to support Matt Partymiller and Denis Oudard of Solar Energy Solutions and the Kentucky Solar Energy Society, both member groups of KySEA.

 

The committee is co-chaired by Senator Damon Thayer and Representative Steve Riggs. Both are interested to learn about the opportunity Kentucky has to advance solar energy and how local governments can take action.

 

For more information, email jeff@kysea.org or denis@kysea.org.

 

 

Oct 20, 2011

Capitalism will drive demand for solar energy

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 20, 2011 08:16 PM

By Denis Oudard, representative to KySEA for the Kentucky Solar Energy Society
Posted: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/10/16/1923111/capitalism-will-drive-demand-for.html#ixzz1bAIpmegN

Solar electricity will be cheaper than any other source of electricity by 2020.

There, you heard it from me first. This claim is now more believable than ever.

Signs are everywhere that this will be reality within our lifetime. The reason is very simple, and it has nothing to do with the Environmental Protection Agency or environmentalists. It has to do with good old capitalism.

First, some basic, but important, data.

You can go crazy trying to determine the cost of electricity from coal (try the Internet), but since I have seen some utility bills from large companies at about 3.3 cents per kilowatt hour, it is quite safe to assume that — under most circumstances — it is less than 3 cents, including the transmission to the point of consumption.

More importantly, it is safe to assume that it is not going down. Kentucky residential customers pay about 8 cents per kWh and they know it has not been going down.

Today the solar industry can install utility-size systems that over their 40-year lifetime will produce electricity at a cost of 10 cents per kWh, down from about 18 per kWh about a year ago.
The reasons for this sudden decline are several, but the two main factors are:

■ European countries have lowered their feed-in-tariffs, the amount of money European utilities promise to pay for solar electricity, making them less attractive to investors

■ China is investing huge amounts of money in solar production plants. This has created an oversupply situation in the photovoltaic industry, sending the price of PV modules tumbling.

The cost of solar was going down before these two recent events and it will continue going down, most likely in fits and starts. Eventually, it will halve again, and again and again. I predict that by 2020, the cost of a solar kWh will be 2.2 cents, delivered.

Many in the industry make similar predictions. Forward thinking companies and governments all over the world are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to install solar systems. Once the cost of solar electricity reaches "grid-parity," the point where solar electricity is cheaper than the alternatives, they will spend hundreds of billions of dollars.

Solar has all kind of neat advantages. It produces electricity without water, without ashes and without various unwanted gases and poisons. But as we have seen, for many people those advantages are not enough. The decisive advantage of solar is that its cost is going down.

The implications are far reaching. Countries and states that do not act now to build a solar energy infrastructure, including knowledgeable engineers, qualified installers, modern transmission lines and even electricity storage, will find themselves with the highest electrical bills in less than 10 years.

Some say that coal is already the expensive solution today because of its externalities: its pollutions of all kind and their consequences. What seems to be the source of cheap electricity today will no longer be the source of cheap electricity tomorrow, no matter how you do the math and no matter how you account for externalities.

Some people say we cannot afford to rely on more expensive renewable energy. Their message — that renewable energy is pushing the price of electricity up — is the exact opposite of what is going to happen. Sticking with the status quo is what is going to cause the cost of electricity to increase the most. Investing now in renewable energy will create the cheapest electricity in the near term.

Groups involved with the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA) and the Kentucky Solar Energy Society (KySES) are finally making some progress in Frankfort waking up our legislators to this reality. They are advocating a bill that would progressively increase the portion of clean energy that utilities purchase and implement policies — which states including Ohio, North Carolina and New Jersey have already adopted — to grow Kentucky's clean-energy market, clean-energy expertise and clean-energy jobs.

 

Oct 11, 2011

Renewed Energy

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Oct 11, 2011 10:22 AM

Re-posted from the Louisville Eccentric Observer.

Activists point to higher bills, job creation in urging legislators to support clean energy
By Anne Marshall

Earlier this month, the Kentucky Public Service Commission’s public hearing unfolded much like a game of dominoes. Held at Louisville’s Johnson Traditional Middle School, members of the scant crowd leaned into the microphone, one after another, their pleas all generally falling into line: Don’t raise our bills, protect low-income families who can’t afford ever-blooming energy costs, and get serious about alternative energy.

Clean energy advocates hope the combination of rising rates, along with the potential for job creation, will steer legislators towards passing the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a bill that’s gone nowhere in the past two legislative sessions. It mandates that a portion of Kentucky’s energy come from renewable sources, rather than solely from coal. An admittedly uphill battle in a mountaintop removal state.

“I think it will look nearly impossible until the day before it passes,” says Wallace McMullen, conservation chair with Louisville’s chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Sept. 6 hearing was part of a series as the Public Service Commission decides whether LG&E and Kentucky Utilities should be allowed to tack on an environmental surcharge to bills. That could raise residential electric bills in Louisville by up to 19 percent over the next four years. (The Sierra Club and Metropolitan Housing Coalition will go before the Public Service Commission in November as interveners in the surcharge case. The Sierra Club questions the analysis behind the fee. The Housing Coalition is concerned with how the higher bills may inevitably hit the poor the hardest.)

The charge would eventually drop off once the utilities have covered the estimated $2.5 billion needed to improve existing coal-fired power plants not meeting Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. One such upgrade would include the addition of “scrubbers” that will catch emissions before they escape into the air. Joan Lindop, with the Greater Louisville Sierra Club, likens this to billions on Band-Aids.

“If they scrub more emissions out, that’s more that’s going into a coal ash pile,” she says. “We’re really not wanting to encourage them to spend that money on old plants when it could be used for renewables.”

And so for the third year, advocates are gearing up to push legislation they say would spark production and demand of solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal power.

In 2010, the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB 239) was assigned to the state House of Representatives’ Natural Resources and Environment Committee, headed by global-warming denier Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence. It did not get a hearing. In 2011, the bill was strategically rerouted outside of Gooch’s committee and into the Tourism Development and Energy Committee led by Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville. That resulted in measured progress: A discussion hearing. No vote.

This year’s proposed legislation will look much like the one from last year, with two critical pieces. The first includes a renewable and efficiency portfolio standard, a policy already adopted by 29 other states. It would require utilities to generate 12.5 percent of retail sales from renewable energy by 2021, with at least 1 percent from solar.

This is a rather conservative standard when compared to several other states demanding that well over 20 percent of energy eventually be derived from renewable sources.

The other proposed policy calls for a “feed-in tariff,” which works as a contract, establishing a fixed premium price for energy produced in Kentucky, be it from large-scale operations or individual homeowners.

Mike Hynes, president of the Housing Partnership Inc., a developer of affordable housing in Louisville, wrote a letter to the Public Service Commission in support of this idea. Hynes recently installed solar panels on one of the Housing Partnership’s properties, but was careful to only invest in panels that would generate 75 percent of their energy needs.

If Hynes outfitted the building with enough panels to exceed 100 percent of their desired energy, LG&E would give him a credit to go toward future bills, rather than pay him for that energy.
“Basically, that builds up in perpetuity. In my mind, that creates an incentive not to produce enough electricity as one could for their household,” he says. “With a rebate program, that’s an incentive to create systems that are larger than what you can use."

Several regional utility companies including Duke Energy, Georgia Power and Florida Power and Light have tariff programs that pay per kilowatt-hour, then turn around and put that energy back into the grid.

Tom FitzGerald, with the Kentucky Resources Council, says the timing is right for renewables.
“The unit cost of solar and wind is coming down,” says FitzGerald, adding that while coal may appear to be the cheapest source of fuel, that’s not including environmental costs and restrictions.

“Over the course of time, you start having to fold in extra costs because externalities have to be accounted for.”

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, will sponsor the renewable energy bill again this year. She says supporters are tailoring their arguments for the legislation in light of another sore subject — jobs.

“When you’re looking at business and manufacturing folks coming to Kentucky, they want constancy in the market,” she says. “Coal is cheap now, but it’s going up.”

The Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance reports that neighboring states with clean energy standards are experiencing a boom in manufacturing and construction employment. For example, after Ohio passed legislation in 2008, about 1,500 solar-related jobs were created.

While no one expects the Clean Energy Opportunity Act to garner much attention until election hoopla ceases, advocates believe this year the support just might be there. They point to this week’s Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment in Lexington, where various panels discussed the issue.

“What we have to consider is coal is always going to be No. 1 for the foreseeable 15 to 20 years,” Marzian says. “But if we don’t start looking at different tools … we’re going to be left holding the bag.”

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