While you sometimes hear people saying that Kentucky does not get enough sunlight for solar energy to be a significant source of energy in the state, that is not true. Kentucky’s climate is well suited to the use of solar technologies, solar thermal to power solar water heating or space heating systems and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity. Kentucky averages 4.5 hours of sunlight per day. By comparison, Florida averages only slightly more at 5.3 hours per day (Renewable Resource Data Center).
Electricity derived from solar energy is one part of the energy mix required by the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Standard proposed by the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance, to which KCC belongs. The Portfolio Standard KySEA is supporting requires utilities, through gradually increasing, incremental goals, to ramp up to obtaining 12.5% of their retail sales from renewable sources and offset 10.25% of annual retail sales through energy efficiency by 2021. A small but increasing percentage of this amount must come from solar.
Even without the requirement of a portfolio standard, both commercial scale and small scale solar are taking hold in Kentucky. Star Harvest has built a one megawatt solar instillation in Bowling Green that is the first system in Kentucky to actually produce energy and be eligible for the incentives of the “Incentives for Energy Independence Act.
Richardsville Elementary School, also in Bowling Green, was designed to meet all of its annual energy needs with solar photovoltaics, thus becoming the first net-zero-energy school in the state. On the production side, Alternative Energies Kentucky opened a solar voltaic factory in Danville this year, thus becoming the first manufacturer of solar photovoltaic panels in Kentucky.
Last month, the Kentucky Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Local Government heard presentations by Denis Oduard and Andy McDonald on the range of uses local governments, schools, and other institutions could make of solar energy to gain control of their energy costs over coming decades. Solar technology is improving at a rapid pace, while its cost is decreasing with equal speed. Battery technology and more sophisticated planning are permitting solar and wind to be combined with other energy sources in ways that eliminate concerns some people have had about the reliability of these sources.
In the coming months, KCC’s members and lobbyists, along with members and staff of other Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance groups, will be working to educate legislators and their staffs concerning the merits of our Renewable Energy and Energy Portfolio Standard and other parts of the bill we support. For more information on you can help, contact Art Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) or go to KySEA.org.
Reports and Resources
American Solar Energy Society. “Tackling Climate Change” (2007):www.ases.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=838&Itemid=58.
Appalachia — Science in the Public Interest “Kentucky Solar Energy Guide” (October 2006): http://kysolar.org/ky_solar_energy_guide.
Carson Lambert, Susan. “Renewable Energy Resources Inventory in Kentucky.” Available by clicking here.