Kentucky’s largest utility requested a nine-fold increase in solar and battery storage, and the state’s regulators just approved it.
LG&E/KU’s big solar + battery bump
Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities (LG&E/KU) applied to the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) to install 877 megawatts (MW) of solar generation and 500 MWh of battery storage, and the regulators approved it.
The utility also applied in May to retire seven fossil fuel-generated plants, and the PSC has approved closing five of those plants. Two coal-fired plants and three gas-powered units – Mill Creek 1 and 2, Haefling 1 and 2, and Paddy’s Run 12 – will be shuttered. LG&E/KU also applied to build two new gas-powered units.
This is the first time a new Kentucky law that requires utilities to get permission from regulators to retire fossil fuel plants has been put to the test.
The Sierra Club wrote about this decision:
This case demonstrates that under the new law, coal generation can still be retired while maintaining, and even improving, the reliability of the electric grid.
Sierra Club’s cross-examination in this case revealed that LG&E/KU’s rolling blackouts during Winter Storm Elliott were due in part to coal-fired generation failures in cold weather.
This is a big deal for Kentucky because it’s been a solar laggard: It’s currently ranked 43rd among US states for solar capacity by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). But that’s about to change.
As of Q2 2023, according to the SEIA, the state had 165 MW of installed solar – a measly 0.32% of the state’s electricity is being powered by solar.
But the SEIA projects that Kentucky is gearing up for a big solar increase – 3,331 MW over the next five years, which would bump it to No. 17 in the US. And with this new announcement, 877 MW of new solar plus battery storage is in the bag.
It’s a shame that LG&E/KU is also going to build two new gas-powered plants, but this is historically a fossil fuel-producing state, after all. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
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Author: Michelle Lewis