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Federal Grants Will Help Fund Solar Projects in Rural Kentucky

More than $329,000 in federal grants are coming to Kentucky for solar energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas.The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $68 million in grants and loansfor renewable energy projects last week. The money comes from the Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, and goes to agricultural producers and rural small businesses.In Kentucky, most of the money goes toward eight solar projects that will together generate more than 291,000 kilowatt hours of energy every year. For comparison, that’s only .004 percent of the annual capacity of the coal-fired Mill Creek Generation Station, which is Louisville Gas & Electric’s largest coal power plant.Attorney Greg Taylor in Murray is one of the grant recipients. His company is getting $10,000—about a quarter of the estimated cost—to install several solar panels.“We’re putting the solar panels at our office location and we plan on generating a fair amount of electric power from them that’s going to go back on the grid and save us a lot of money over the next 20 years,” Taylor said. “So it’s a long term investment that we think is going to pay off in a big way.”Taylor said his extended family owns several businesses in Murray, and three have already installed solar panels that are performing beyond expectations.“Solar has become a very viable energy source here in Western Kentucky, especially on farms and in businesses where there’s enough land or roof space to get the panels installed,” he said.Bart Cayce of Cayce Mill Supply said his company will use his $28,272 REAP grant in conjunction with a Tennessee Valley Authority incentive program to install several panels on the roof of the company's Hopkinsville headquarters."With this REAP grant, it made it where this was a feasible thing to do, it had a return on investment in less than 10 years, which was good enough for us to move ahead with the project," he said.The USDA grants were announced in tandem with several other executive actions to cut carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change. The other projects include partnering with three military bases to create a pilot project to train veterans for jobs in the solar energy field and propose a new standard for air conditioning units to conserve energy. The Obama Administration estimates the combined effect of the actions will cut carbon pollution by 300 million metric tons through 2030, which it says is the equivalent of taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year.A previous version of this story miscalculated the capacity of LG&E's Mill Creek Power Plant. The figure has been corrected.