Legislative committees met to discuss the future of Solar Energy in Ky
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, co-chaired by Representative Jim Gooch of Providence, met for a combined meeting with the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture, co-chaired by Representative Richard Heath of Mayfield, to discuss land use and zoning regulations for solar power farms in Kentucky.
Legislators heard discussion centered on both current and future infrastructure policy surrounding farmland used for solar powered renewable energy.
The first presentation included representatives from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, who noted the current statistics for solar energy as they pertain to the Commonwealth.
Statistics explained that currently, providing one megawatt of solar energy, a minimum of 10 acres is required for solar panels.
In Kentucky, there are currently 30,000 acres in demand for solar energy projects.
The land has been approved for use and is currently under consideration through the siting board.
Presenters also noted that the cabinet remains neutral on solar siting land use decision-making, as there is a process established through the Kentucky Electric Generation and Transmission Siting Board.
Kenya Stump, Executive Director for the Office of Energy Policy, concluded her presentation sharing the primary focus for the cabinet is implementing panel/cell decommissioning efforts and developing reclaimed mine lands.
Upon hearing testimony, Representative Adam Bowling reiterated, “We are extremely lucky to have favorable utility rates that attract developers from across the nation to invest in our infrastructure. As we start phasing out coal and natural gas, we must remain thoughtful of any cost implication new options will have on our existing ones.”
Members also heard from the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC). Kent Chandler, Chairman of the PSC, informed committee on merchant solar facilities submitting their applications to the board.
The siting board is responsible for reviewing applications and grants disapproval or approval certifications for the construction of electric generating facilities greater than ten megawatts.
The siting board consists of three members of the PSC, the Secretary of Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development, and two local members appointed by the Governor.
Chandler responded to a series of questions seeking specific information about the PSC’s involvement in siting solar electric generating facilities, eventually bringing to light that the commission is only involved in the application phase.
“In the utility sector, nothing happens in a vacuum. When you allow merchant solar power that is electricity generation that is not owned by a regulated utility and not under oversight of the PSC. The concern is, what effect does that sale deprive the existing and necessary base load generators, primarily coal, gas, and nuclear from supplying and maintaining a reliable and resilient supply of electricity,” Gooch aid. “Someone needs to be in charge and responsible for making those decisions with oversight of the PSC.”
Members also heard testimony from the Clark Coalition, which addressed some of the negative aspects of the industry. Will Mayer, the Executive Director of Clark Coalition noted there is interest in over 10,000 megawatts (equivalent to 110,000 acres) in 47 counties in the PJM pipeline for project consideration. With the influx of projects, Mayer pointed to the issues of material recycling and disposal adding that the cost is extraordinarily high.
For full details of the meeting, please visit legislature.ky.gov or follow the link here for the meeting materials. To watch the full meeting, visit the Legislative Research Commission YouTube page here.