Solar farms: Why Meade County?

CHAD HOBBS

Messenger Staff


In last week’s edition, this series started with a general introduction of the two proposed solar farms that are on pace to start construction in Meade County in 2022. One of the many questions that citizens have over these projects is “Why Meade County?”

As reported, the project in the southern part of the county is being developed by Community Energy with the goal of selling 100 percent of the electricity generated to Big Rivers Electric Corporation. At the time of print, the solar farm in western Meade County and Breckinridge County being developed by Orion Renewable Energy Group had not become completely clear on the goals of its energy production. Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s application to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission appeared to have the electricity destined for Northern Indiana. At last week’s Fiscal Court meeting, it was revealed, however, that the project had been purchased by NextEra Energy Resources with plans to sell the energy to Big Rivers also.

On May 27, 2020, Big Rivers Electric Corp. announced that it had “entered into agreements to purchase power from two solar developers who will build, own and operate their facilities in western Kentucky.”

“Big Rivers is excited to add this renewable energy source to our portfolio for the sole benefit of our Member-Owners,” said Bob Berry, President and CEO of Big Rivers Electric Corporation. “This is another example of our commitment to provide safe, reliable and sustainable energy to our Members.”

This sentiment was echoed by Community Energy in that same press release. These projects are for the betterment of electric consumers, such as Meade County RECC customers.

“Big Rivers is showing impressive leadership with this purchase of solar power from our McCracken County and Meade County projects,” said Brent Beerley, President of Community Energy. “Each of Big Rivers’ Member-Owners will benefit from the long-term, fixed-priced and low-priced electricity these projects will generate. The region will also benefit from economic development, jobs, and taxes.”

Once again, national corporations have chosen Meade County to develop for the greater good of its citizens. As this press release made clear, both Big Rivers and Community Energy are focused on bringing economic development, jobs, taxes and cheap energy to people of this county.

However, an article in the Henderson Gleaner points to a much different motivation behind this sudden interest in bringing solar farms to Meade County — one of which could ultimately become the largest of its kind in the state.

Big Rivers spokeswoman Jennifer Keach told that paper that it was major industries ‘that were increasingly demanding that renewable energy be part of their power supply” which is driving these solar energy developments, namely Nucor Steel which will be purchasing a significant amount of electricity from Big Rivers through Meade County RECC.

“Nucor wanted renewables as part of their (power supply) portfolio,” Keach told the Gleaner. “These projects being brought in by the (Kentucky) Cabinet (for Economic Development) will tell you they want renewables as part of their portfolio. (These solar energy contracts are) one of the ways we can say, ‘We can do that for you.’ Within the past year, that has been a big talking point.”

So, by their own statements, Big Rivers and these solar farm developers aren’t so much concerned with delivering cheap energy, jobs, taxes and economic development to the citizens of Meade County. By Keach’s own words, it is another case of whatever Nucor wants; Nucor gets. This time, it’s renewable energy.

As one farmer recently stated, “First, they took our grain elevator. Now, they are coming for our croplands.”

Magistrate Billy Sipes pointed to this sentiment as well at last week’s Fiscal Court meeting when he hinted at looking at options to halt further development of more solar farms in Meade County after a representative of NextEra said that “if it’s not us, there’s going to be other companies that come in because the prices are going down, and it’s so economical,” when asked if more land would eventually be developed in the county for solar farms.

“Here’s my reason — we are trying to get a grain company to come in, but if you all (solar developers) come in and take all the farm ground to put solar panels in, What good does it do us to try to get a granary?” Sipes questioned. “I mean, fair is fair; I understand you all have already acquired some property, but I don’t want to see the whole county in solar panels.”

With “Why Meade County?” now answered, next week this series will dive into answering questions about environmental impacts, property values and other points of interest surrounding the solar farms being developed within our community.




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