Harrison County land being assessed by solar panels business

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Hundreds of acres in Harrison County are being assessed for what could be the largest solar farm in Kentucky.

Geenex, a solar company based in Charlotte, N.C., is looking at 600 to 1,000 acres, said Garnett Furnish, executive director of the Cynthiana/Harrison County Economic Development Association.

Founded in 2012, Geenex built its first project in Halifax County, N.C., in 2014.

Kentucky currently ranks 45th out of 50 states for use of solar and hydro power. Less than 1 percent of the nation’s solar and hydro power is generated in the commonwealth.

Company officials have been in the area surveying, and preliminary plans have been cleared by Harrison County’s planning zoning, Furnish said. The next step is a ruling by fiscal court.

The proposed $50-million solar farm could increase the area’s tax base if the land is taken out of agriculture use, Furnish explained. Commercial and industrial use are taxed at a higher rate, he said.

It’s unlikely that the company would add any substantial amount of jobs, but some workers may be needed to do basic maintenance on the panels, he added.

At the proposed size, the solar field will be by far the largest in Kentucky, said Donald Colliver, director of the Kentucky Industrial Assessment Center at University of Kentucky.

Kentucky’s current largest field is 50 acres in Mercer County with 44,600 panels, Colliver said. It became fully operational in June. A field the size proposed for Harrison County generates about half as much energy as a standard coal fire plant. The Berea Solar Farm has 246 panels. It opened in 2012.

Kentucky still ranks near the bottom of all states –– for all renewable energy production, at 2.4 percent, and solar is barely noticeable at less than 1 percent of all electricity consumed, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Geenex did not respond to the Herald-Leader’s request for comment.