Kentucky Coal Museum Switches To Solar

290px-the_sunCoal_bituminousWe have been discussing how the Trump Administration seems to be moving aggressively in the opposite direction of much of the world: betting heavily on coal as an energy source as opposed to renewable energy.  One group that does not appear onboard with the shift is the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham, KY.  The museum  at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College has switched to solar power.

 
The switch to solar energy will save the museum a copious amount on power costs.  The irony was not lost on critics who noted that, as the coal museum switches to solar, the Trump Administration is emphasizing coal.  Moreover, as we previously discussed, the emphasis on coal is running against the largest employer in the energy field and one of our greatest growth industries.

25 thoughts on “Kentucky Coal Museum Switches To Solar

  1. Subsidies should be limited to research. For end consumers, the subsidies are only driving up the price of solar as the subsidies are taken by the retailers in that the subsidy is essentially added to the price in the hope that the consumer anticipates receiving the subsidy.

    I saw this completely when I researched installing solar onto my house.

    • I have seen the same thing. They increase the price knowing the customer will increase a subsidy. The technology itself needs to be affordable.

      I haven’t given up on solar though. One day…

  2. Here is an article with more information:

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/04/06/kentucky-coal-mining-museum-switches-to-solar-power.html

    “Twenty solar panels, the average needed to power a house, would cost between $17,000 and $20,000 to install, though the costs would be recouped from savings within five to seven years, according to WYMT.” First, when I priced out solar panels in CA for an SFR, it cost quite a bit more. So where in the world did the author get the cost of $17,000 for a house? Second, the museum would be much larger, so this cost estimate is apples and oranges when you consider how much it cost to move the museum to solar.

    “The project is being funded through an outside foundation and will cost thousands of dollars, according to Robinson.” Was the cost of the solar panels donated, so the museum saves money right away, or does the museum have to cover these costs?

    “Robinson admitted the switch from coal to solar energy is “a little ironic,” but said the two power sources work “hand-in-hand.”

    “And, of course, coal is still king around here,” Robinson said.” Solar must be used in conjunction with other power because it only generates electricity on sunny days.

    It is so very easy to sneer at the call for cheap energy when you don’t have to struggle to keep the lights on. But when you do, cost is the most important determining factor. So we need to ensure that affordability is a priority when designing the clean energy that will one day completely replace fossil fuels.

    As for my question on whether clean renewables was increasing the cost of energy in KY, here is the energy profile of their utility company: http://energy.ky.gov/Kentucky_Energy_Profile/Kentucky%20Energy%20Profile%202015.pdf

    It states that “Kentucky’s low energy costs stimulate economic growth by lowering the costs of doing business in Kentucky. Kentucky maintained the fourth-lowest industrial electricity price in the United States in 2014 and the lowest east of the Mississippi River, see pages 12-13…While our abundant supply of coal has enabled Kentucky to maintain one of the lowest electricity prices in the United States, see pages 12-13, electricity prices do vary across the Commonwealth and between utilities, see maps on pages 17 to 21. Electricity prices affect every family and business, and in poorer rural and urban areas in Kentucky, average expenditures on electricity are already 15 percent of average household income, see maps on pages 14-15. Electric heat is the primary means of home heating across the Commonwealth, see maps on pages 8-11. In addition, thirteen percent of Kentucky families live in manufactured homes, which almost exclusively rely on electric heat. We believe that these data underline the importance of maintaining low-cost energy for Kentucky families and for families to use energy wisely and efficiently to lower their own expenses.”

    This explains how critical it is to keep costs low, which is one of the driving factors for maintaining coal. I agree that coal is a dirty fuel, although new technology has improved emissions. But we must also remember that there are millions of people who struggle to keep the lights on and feed their family. We do not want people to suffer and die in the First World because they cannot afford to heat their homes, nor do we want them to go out and chop down all the trees to get heat. Cost is critical. Only those who live in financial security dismiss such concerns, which is a criticism I often have about the clean energy movement. Both environmental responsibility and affordability are equally important to avoid tragic unintended consequences.

  3. We need to ensure that we can develop renewable energy that is affordable without heavy subsidies.

    My own energy costs went up, accompanied by a letter explaining that the rapid increase in cost was due to the conversation to more green renewables. Because of that, I now receive mailers on wood pellet burning furnaces and stoves to combat rising energy costs. The de-forestation and de-vegetation of our planet is one of my major concerns, as it affects our oxygen, removes carbon, filters our air, increases humidity, reduces runoff, stabilizes soils to prevent erosion, improves the condition, microbial content, and tilth of our soils, and are just plain prettier to look at than a dry sandy wasteland. So the rise of wood burning pellet stoves and furnaces, and our massive exportation of wood pellets as “renewable energy” to the UK is a critical flaw of the renewable energy movement.

    That said, I hope that the cost of going solar goes down. It has always been a dream of mine to be at least partially off grid with clean solar energy. They need to come up with a way to store the excess, instead of sending it to the grid. And they need to ensure fair net metering. One of the main issues we are grappling with in sunshine states is that the utility companies have no competition, are monopolies, and they claim that as more people go solar, they have less customers, but they are still required to maintain the grid with less revenue. A house will not be permitted unless it has energy and gas here. You cannot build off grid, although that is a common occurrence in remote areas like Alaska. So the utility companies raise rates exponentially, and customers may not vote with their wallets. They must simply accept the higher prices. And net metering is not universal, in which cases the utility companies gets your excess energy produced for free. I foresee more energy being produced by the end user, and the grid becoming more of a cooperative. We have to solve these logistical problems soon, as solar becomes more popular.

    Also, did the museum switch to solar panels because their energy costs skyrocketed after their own utility company added more expensive renewable energy to its portfolio? Did they not factor in the cost of the solar panel? Because they will not save a dime on energy costs until the panel is paid for, which in CA can take over two decades. So the wording is a bit unclear.

      • The cost in the present of solar electricity is ‘lower’ than natural gas which is in second place and then coal which is in third place. Sorry but you have to really ‘do the math’ here…..and ‘affordability’ has to do not only with production of said product but the ‘externalities’ manifest by the process of refining the raw sourced element. When you ‘add it up’ the ‘externalities’ from solar equipment production, it is quit a bit below the cost of coal, which is as dirty as anything you might imagine.

    • ” Because they will not save a dime on energy costs until the panel is paid for, which in CA can take over two decades. So the wording is a bit unclear.”

      I live in CA and my panels will pay for themselves in 6 1/2 years….so two decades plus….sounds like someone got zinged.

  4. The PV system is grid tied, details are a tad difficult to find, was stated as being 60 kW. Travis Andrews stated this in the post: “It’s difficult not to see a foreshadowing in the switch to solar power.”

    Over generation is the issue foreshadowing CA’s issues with keeping the grid up:

    http://www.cleanenergylawreport.com/energy-regulatory/caiso-expects-it-may-need-to-curtail-up-to-8000-mw-this-spring-and-up-to-13000-mw-by-2024-which-could-test-curtailment-risk-allocation-provisions-in-renewable-ppas/?utm

  5. JT really has a juvenile side to him and it comes out on topics having to do with the environment. It’s one thing for this museum to calculate the value of investing in something that will reduce their energy costs, and another to switch over because of environmental concerns (costs be damned). Like most things, people vote with their wallets.

    • Olly,

      I agree. Especially when he keeps thinking that statements like “Moreover, as we previously discussed, the emphasis on coal is running against the largest employer in the energy field” is some sort of smoking gun. The only thing this statement points out is how inefficient the renewable industry is at producing a very small amount of our needs. Should we go back to horse and buggy for freight since it would require hiring a lot more people?

      He also seems to be implying that coal is expensive or it’s only use is for electricity. I now work at a cement plant that just put in the latest kiln method for making clinker and it runs on coal. We also use so much electricity to power our grinding mills that when we turn them all on, we have to notify the power grid. There is no way in hell you could power our plant with wind or solar. Environmentalists never live in the real world.

        • Clinker is the stony residue from burned coal.

          Also interesting to note Marriam-Webster’s second definition is: “a serious mistake or error … an utter failure … something of poor quality” That is, I believe, coal.

        • Karen,

          Sorry for the late response. Clinker is the main output of a cement kiln in the process of making cement. Limestone harvested from the quarry is ground to a fine powder where it gets heated. As the limestone (CaCO3) is heated, it drives of a CO2 molecule leaving lime (CaCo). This process is called calcining. The lime is heated and rolled in the kiln to the point that is forms balls or clinker. The clinker is cooled and then ground with other elements in finishing mills to make cement powder. We have 4 finishing mills each run by 4,000 hp electric motors.

          Cement clinker has nothing to do with coal other than coal being the heat source for the kiln.

  6. Solar is a good investment if you have a building for 30-40 years. In Arizona, people trade up every 5 years (like cars), so they never get their investment back out of their solar. In this case you have a museum, at a community college, that potentially could be around long enough to pay for itself.

    Having said all that, I think it is insulting to the miners who dug the coal. And, as we have seen lately, the college showed no sensitivity to the miners or the mines.

    • Insulting to the miners…..LMAO! What about the downwind pollution that ‘insults’ folks to death!! It’s not an insult to the miners, it’s an insult to the Mega Coal Companies, and I say ‘insult away’!! The coal industry has poisoned us and phkd up our environment enough….so I’d say adding solar to the museum is a compliment to the ‘families’ of the miners overall.

      • Have you checked out the Turk clean coal power plant in Texarkana?

        http://www.powermag.com/aeps-john-w-turk-jr-power-plant-earns-powers-highest-honor/

        Yes, it still emits CO2, but CO2 isn’t a problem. There is zero scientific evidence that CO2 causes warming, but there are ice core studies the show consistently that warming PRECEEDS increased CO2 levels by and average of about 800 years, the shortest period being 200 years, going back about 800 million years. There are no exceptions where increased CO2 levels precede warming.

        This plant seems to have solved the sulfur dioxide emissions from coal burning that cause the particulate pollution in the atmosphere. CO2 has nothing to do with it.

    • How much did that solar panel installation costs, and how much of it was paid for by taxpayer subsidies from taxpayers who get zero return on their investment?

  7. Trump was clear about bringing jobs back to coal mining areas of the country. Coal mines too but overall the notion was to bring jobs there. Trump is also interested in coal miners’ daughters. That should not be lost. Coal miners could build solar energy fields. Coal miners are laborers and can do things other than dig for coal in a tunnel or dig for coal with a huge mechanical shovel at an open pit type of mine. Solar is good.

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