A large tract of Logan County farmland could soon go green – and not because some industrious farmers are putting out double-crop corn or soybeans – and that could mean more greenbacks for the county.
If a Pennsylvania-based company called Community Energy Solar gets the approval from the Tennessee Valley Authority, a parcel of real estate large enough for roughly 1,200 football fields could be transformed into one of the largest arrays of solar panels in the Southeast in the next couple of years.
Community Energy is proposing to build a solar farm on 1,600 acres south of Russellville and produce enough electricity to power 40,000 households for a year.
Whether you’re a tree hugger or a climate change denier, you should get behind this development.
By necessity and increasingly because of economics, TVA and other power suppliers are ditching their coal-fired power plants and switching to renewables like wind and solar.
Logan County is hoping to cash in on that trend toward “green” power while taking advantage of the move away from coal. The county is located along the high-voltage power lines that served TVA’s Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County, where two coal-fired units have already been converted to natural gas and a third is expected to be taken offline next year.
Chris Killenberg, Southeast director of business development for Community Energy, saw a sunlight-bright opportunity in the black news of the Paradise plant’s demise.
He jumped at the chance to find land along those transmission lines and put together a proposal that he submitted to TVA, which is looking for solar power providers.
Community Energy’s proposal made it through TVA’s initial winnowing of bids and is now a finalist in the race to produce green power for the agency tasked with providing electricity in parts of seven states.
Although it’s a departure from the brick-and-mortar factories that have traditionally been the target of economic development efforts, this solar farm proposal has plenty of merit.
As Logan County Economic Alliance for Development Executive Director Tom Harned points out, the solar farm would mean a huge capital investment in the county and more property taxes than could be generated from farmland.
Logan Fiscal Court has seen the benefits as well and took action in August to change the rules for how far electric generation units must be from existing structures, thus making the county more inviting to the likes of Community Energy.
We hope those efforts succeed and that TVA gives Community Energy the green light to help light up the Tennessee Valley.
Locating the solar farm in Logan County could be the start of the diversification of a southcentral Kentucky economy long known for its manufacturing.
A 1,600-acre solar farm – which could be returned to agriculture use eventually – would quickly put the region on the map in the renewable energy game and only enhance the local economy.
As Simpson County Judge-Executive Mason Barnes observed: “We might as well embrace the fact that solar farms are coming because TVA is looking for other ways to produce power. There are going to be a substantial number of solar farms going up.”
Including, we hope, at least one rather large one in Logan County.