Kentucky tips crown to solar power with one project to triple capacity

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The Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KMEA), a group of 11 city-owned utilities, agreed last week to purchase 62.5% of an 86 MW-AC solar power plant starting in late 2022. The remaining volume will be purchased by Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU), pending board approval.

The facility is being built, owned and managed by Ashwood Solar I, LLC, a joint venture between MAP Energy and Open Road Renewables (ORR). The project will feature single axis trackers covering 800 acres of land, and the facility is projected to produced 200 gigawatt-hours per year. This represents a 26.5% AC-capacity factor.

The version of the power purchase agreement (PPA) between KMEA and Ashwood seen by pv magazine blocked out all pricing or further system capacity information.

In a powerpoint presentation the electricity utility noted that in the latter part of 2021 they’re going to lose about 100 MW of coal  and gas capacity. The below slide shows some of the ideas put forth – and note that the orange section of chart is still noted as ‘to be discussed’.

The contract notes that OMU may buy the rest of the solar power plant’s output. If it doesn’t, KMEA has the right but not the obligation to buy the rest of the electricity.

KMEA said that it received many proposals ranging from 10 to 30 year PPAs, though most featured 20-year terms. The utility also noted that moving from a 10 to a 20 year PPA lowered the pricing 20-40%, and even moving from a 15 to a 20 year PPA lowered the price 3 to 10%.

The 30-year pricing was 1 to 14% lower, but none of the 30-year contracts were considered competitive. The reason for this was not revealed.

The state’s current largest solar power plant is only 10 MW and was built two years ago. SEIA estimates that the state has installed a total of 32 MW of solar power. With this project unlikely to be completed until 2022, it probably won’t triple the capacity in the ground then, but it does show big business that despite the state’s relationship with coal, Kentucky is a viable marketplace.