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Kentucky Regulators OK State's First Utility-Scale Solar Array

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The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved a 10 megawatt solar array,making it the first utility-scale solar energy system to be built in the commonwealth. It’ll be built near the Brown Power Plant in Mercer County, southwest of Lexington.

The project proposed by Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities was approved late Friday. It will include about 35,000 panels, as well as transformers and other equipment, and cost about $36 million. The utility doesn’t expect it to have a major impact on electricity rates.

The Sierra Club and Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers intervened in the case in support of the proposal.

“This is a good example of how LG&E and KU, the Sierra Club and our industrial partners worked together for a mutually beneficial solution for Kentucky,” LG&E and KU Chief Operating Officer Paul Thompson said in an emailed statement. “While Kentucky is not blessed with an abundance of wind and solar energy, the approval gives us the opportunity to learn more about solar technology. By utilizing our existing property and taking advantage of tax incentives, we can offer our customers another source of generation, similar to our existing hydro plants.”

Earthjustice attorney Matthew Gerhart represented the Sierra Club in the case. He said renewable energy makes environmental and economic sense in Kentucky with recent drastic price drops for solar infrastructure.

“The commission issued a unanimous decision saying it was reasonable for utilities to consider how renewable projects can reduce the risk to customers from future environmental regulations,” he said.

“So we’re hopeful that as the cost of wind and solar continues to decline, that we’ll see more proposals like this from utilities.”

When the project is online in 2016, this new solar facility will be the largest in Kentucky. A solar project half this size is scheduled to be finished next year at Fort Campbell. That project wasn’t subject to PSC approval.

Kentucky Utilities will own 61 percent of the facility; LG&E will own the remaining 39 percent.

Update: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of solar panels the project will include, relying on information from news releases from LG&E and the PSC.