Plans are proceeding to build in Mercer County the largest solar-powered generating facility in Kentucky.
Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities announced Friday that they have secured a contract for engineering, procurement and construction of the facility, and that construction is expected to begin in November.
Amec Foster Wheeler, an engineering and project-management company, has won a competitive bid to build the state's largest photovoltaic facility at the E.W. Brown Generating Station near Burgin and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. The generating station uses coal and natural gas to produce electricity.
"Our new solar facility will allow us to learn more about this technology," LG&E and KU Chief Operating Officer Paul W. Thompson said in a release. "From a pragmatic standpoint, we'll learn how commercial-scale solar energy is impacted by factors such as cloud cover and how it integrates with our existing generating units."
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The new 10-megawatt facility, approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission in December, will occupy about 50 acres of the E.W. Brown plant's property. It will consist of more than 45,000 solar panels on a fixed-tilt rack system.
The panels will be positioned to have the best available sunlight for producing energy. The site is projected to produce 19,000 megawatt hours of energy, enough to provide energy to 1,500 homes based on a usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, the release said.
Construction of the facility is expected to take six months. It will require 75 full-time construction jobs, which will likely be filled by Amec Foster Wheeler employees already working at the E.W. Brown site on other projects.
The facility is expected to be operational by the late spring of 2016.
LG&E and KU were able to reduce costs through competitive bidding by using available tax incentives and building the solar array on property LG&E and KU already own. The final cost to build is expected to be less than the original $36 million estimate.
The Public Service Commission agreed that the project is appropriate for a number of reasons, including that it will meet the need for more generating capacity while giving the two utilities a buffer against potential increases in the price of coal and natural gas.
The new project will also help the utilities prepare for any future limits on carbon-dioxide emissions and could help reduce the cost of complying with such limits, the PSC said in December.
The commission found that the solar project will have only a relatively minor impact on electricity rates, and that the cost of building it will be offset by tax credits and other factors.
In April, Amec Foster Wheeler completed one of the largest solar plants in the country at Boulder City, Nev. Situated on 1,400 acres, it taps into intense desert sun to produce energy for about 80,000 homes.