A mountaintop removal mine is an ecological disaster, but one company is trying to make the best use of the flattened, denuded landscapes that are left behind. The Berkeley Energy Group (BEG) has teamed up with EDF Renewable Energy to build what is expected to be the largest solar farm in Kentucky. BEG, which specializes in coal extraction, plans to use a retired mountaintop strip mine for the location of the farm. It will be the first large scale solar farm in Appalachia.
Ryan Johns, BEG project development executive, said this plan is not to replace coal but simply to take advantage of an otherwise useless piece of land while providing citizens with clean energy and creating jobs.
Kentucky coal miners have suffered from large job cuts in the eastern part of the state, with 14,373 mining jobs in 2008 and only 3,833 in 2016; the hope is to regenerate jobs with the building of this solar farm. Currently, the largest solar farm in Kentucky is the LG&E and KU Energy’s 10-megawatt farm in Mercer County. This farm has 45,000 solar panels on 50 acres of land and can provide energy for around 1,500 homes.