Mercer Residents Voice Opposition To Solar Farms
A public forum was held Monday, April 17, by the Mercer Coalition for Responsible Development to discuss the possible expansion of solar power in the county.
The coalition claims to be a nonprofit, nonpartisan group formed by Mercer County citizens to advocate for responsible development practices. While several speakers said they are not opposed to solar power, all the speakers spoke against two solar projects—one at the location on U.S. 127 known as the Wilkinson Farm, and another possible project, the Herrington Solar Project, at Springlake Farms near Burgin.
Earlier this year, the Kentucky Public Service Commission granted the Mercer County Fiscal Court’s motion to intervene in Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ plan to build a 120-megawatt solar array in Mercer County.
Solar is only part of the utility provider’s plans. KU also seeks to build two 621-megawatt natural gas combined-cycle units—including one at the E.W. Brown Generating Station in Burgin—as well as building a proposed battery storage facility at Brown Station. Along with the solar array. KU is calling the plan the largest energy efficiency proposal in their history. The PSC hearing is scheduled for August.
Speakers said they were not opposed to KU employees here in Mercer County, but they did oppose the utility’s solar plans, stressing the utility provider is owned by PPL Corporation of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Community leaders have previously stated they are not opposed to KU’S plan to build the new natural gas unit and a 125 megawatt battery storage facility in Burgin. But they argued in filings with the PSC and on Monday that they believe the Wilkinson farm, which consists of approximately 1,895 acres intersected by two high voltage transmission lines, would be better suited for industrial development and not a solar facility.
Mike Willand, the executive director of the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Industrial Development Authority, said he and other community leaders were informed of KU’s plans late last year.
“We initially thought it was great news,” Willand said, until they realized it was the Wilkinson farm.
Manufacturing jobs are very important to Mercer County’s future economic growth, Willand said. He said manufacturing jobs created from five to 15 other jobs, including jobs related to providing materials needed for industry and jobs related to where workers spend their income. He said several businesses had expressed interest in the Wilkinson Farm, which due to its transmission lines, highway access and railroad frontage could be home for a factory that could “potentially employ up to 7,000 people.”
After the meeting, Willand said five visitors had expressed interest in the Wilksonson Farm, but he declined to name them, only saying they represented advanced manufacturing, with at least one electronic technology manufacturer. A factory of that size would be one of the biggest in Kentucky, trailing only the Ford plant in Louisville and the Toyota plant in Georgetown. Willand estimated it would only take five years to build the facility, but cautioned, “You’re not going to have 7,000 jobs at one time.”
Asked about the impact a factory of that size would have on the community—including schools, roads and the environment—Willand said it was important for the county to have a say in the property’s development.
“If the county owns the property, they’re in the driver’s seat for how it’s developed,” Willand said. “We have control of the property, we can say, we’re done enough development, we can let the schools catch up.”
Your story says residents oppose a solar farm on US 127. Really? Who opposes it? And how many? A group of people get together and suddenly “THEY” decide what “THEY” think is best for Mercer County. I was at the public forum. The only people I heard opposed to the solar farm was the MCRD, and the Judge Exec. Nobody asked me. No one was given the opportunity to express their opinion. And now I see the county commissioners decided to pay an “expert witness” $1800 to do what? To whom is the “expert” going to witness? Will they attend an open meeting so that we taxpayers can listen to their witness? The MCRD looks like they are trying to force their ideas on Mercer County citizens just as much as LGE/KU.