A partnership between the local utility and state and federal government will build Kentucky’s largest solar array at Fort Campbell. The solar array will cover about 20 acres at the army base, and will produce five megawatts of power.
Kenya Stump, Kentucky’s assistant director of the Division of Renewable Energy, said five megawatts is enough energy to power about 500 homes.
The array will sit on an abandoned landfill, Stump said.
“The landfill itself wasn’t in a position to be utilized since it was already capped and just sitting there, so they had space,” Stump said. “So the array actually fits perfectly with the abandoned landfill.”
She said it’s only one example of using brownfields sites to spur renewable energy development, which is an initiative the Environmental Protection Agency has been working on for awhile. And in Kentucky, it’s becoming more feasible.
“I think as the price of solar is dropping, I think we’re starting to see a little bit more demand from the consumers to utilize solar resources,” Stump said.
The chief law enforcement officer at Mammoth Cave National Park says one of her top challenges is keeping ginseng-poachers out of the area.
The plant’s root is highly prized for its alleged medicinal benefits, and Mammoth Cave Chief Ranger Lora Peppers says wild-grown ginseng can command high prices on the black market--especially in certain Asian countries.
“Digging ginseng in the park is obviously not allowed, but a lot of people are looking for that wild-grown ginseng. The ginseng that you find in some farms is not valued as highly as native ginseng.”
Peppers, an Edmonson County native and WKU graduate, says park employees have scoured the area to find ginseng and mark plants found within the park’s boundaries. Those markings make it much easier to prosecute poachers who sell illegally-harvested ginseng taken from the Mammoth Cave area.
Kentuckians have more time to give feedback on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules requiring states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
The EPA is extending the public comment period 45 days, making the new deadline December 1.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is one of the stakeholders that asked for more time to review the regulations that were introduced in June.
"We're really reaching out to our member companies and forming coalitions with the coal industry, utility companies, and other business groups to try to really understand the true economic impact of these regulations, said Chad Harpole, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber of commerce argues the EPA regulations would lead to higher electric rates and harm the state’s ability to attract new companies.
Kentucky is among 12 states that have filed a legal challenge to proposed regulations that call for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2030.
The Kentucky Division of Water has identified potentially harmful algal blooms, or HABs, in 15 Kentucky lakes this summer, including Carpenters Lake in Daviess County. The lakes are still open, but the DOW advises the public to avoid exposure to HABs, which can cause skin irritation and stomach pain.
Environmental biologist for the DOW Mark Martin said more data is needed to determine whether or not HABs are happening more frequently, but the amount of nutrients like nitrates and phosphorous that are making their way into the watershed has increased over the last few decades, improving conditions for HABs.
Martin said Division of Water will analyze west Kentucky lakes next year. He says HABs prefer still water and may not be much of a concern in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley because the water flows through them quickly. He said it is more likely to find HABs in bays where backwater stagnates, allowing for the accumulation of algae.
A statewide effort to further the economy through funding energy research and attracting more students into STEM fields is getting a major financial boost.
Kentucky is one of six jurisdictions chosen to receive a five year research award from the National Science Foundation.
The award will fund the statewide project "Powering the Kentucky Bio economy for a Sustainable Future." $20 million comes from the National Science Foundation. Another $4 million will come from Kentucky's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto says the goal of the initiative is to meet current and future economic needs.
"The focus of this $24 million dollar interdisciplinary multi-institution research effort will be to strengthen Kentucky's bio-economy and develop new applications for established and emerging industries," said Capilouto.
A researcher at Mammoth Cave National Park is fearful that a fungal disease is set to kill large numbers of bats in the region.
White Nose Syndrome was first discovered at the park in south-central Kentucky last year, and has impacted at least six of the eight bat species found inside the cave. Rick Toomey, director of the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, says researchers at the park are expecting a spike in White Nose cases.
“Unfortunately we’re expecting potentially our next big milestone this year, when we may start seeing fairly large population drops, or possibly finding bats dying of white nose at the park.”
Watch: WKU Public Radio photojournalist Abbey Oldham recently produced a video exploring the potential impact of White Nose Syndrome on the bat populations at Mammoth Cave, and what the park is doing to combat the fungus:
Toomey says an estimated 6.5 million bats in North America have died due to White Nose Syndrome, although he believes the actual number could be much higher. Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee has recently seen a surge in bat deaths due to White Nose Syndrome—deaths Toomey says haven’t shown up yet in official estimates.
State lawmakers were once again briefed Friday about the effects of proposed federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from Kentucky’s coal-fired power plants.
Kentucky Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters told an energy subcommittee in Frankfort that if the changes cause utility companies to increase their rates high enough, the state’s economy could suffer.
“I think the rate increases that are being talked about right now probably on the side it’s five percent," said Peters. "It could be as much as 25 percent. And if it gets into the 25 percent range, we have done some separate studies that clearly show that has a major impact on our manufacturing industry.”
Under the proposed guidelines, Kentucky will have to reduce its CO2 emissions by about 18 percent by the year 2030.
Despite the fact that the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline has been suspended, the companies behind the project are appealing a circuit court decision that found they don’t have the right of eminent domain.
The pipeline would have carried natural gas liquids—like butane, ethane and propane—from drilling operations in the Northeast through Kentucky to processing plants on the Gulf Coast. The NGLs are used in manufacturing materials such as plastics and synthetic rubber, and some Kentucky residents expressed concerns about widespread water contamination if the pipe were to be built and leak.
In May, the companies behind the project announced they were suspending capital investment in the project due to a lack of customer commitments. This was after a number of setbacks, including a ruling from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd that the Bluegrass Pipeline wouldn’t have the power of eminent domain in Kentucky.
Representatives of Bluegrass Pipeline parent company Williams said at the time that the company would seek to use eminent domain only as a last resort, but they believed they had the power under Kentucky law.
Plans have been scrapped for a proposed natural gas power plant in western Kentucky.
Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric announced plans last year to construct a $700 million facility in Muhlenberg County.
The utilities announced this week the project was canceled because nine municipalities have chosen to terminate their contracts with the utility companies.
State Representative Brent Yonts of Greenville is disappointed by the loss of construction jobs.
"It would have brought people into the county to live, to work, and maybe even settle here at some point in time," said Yonts. "It will have a substantial negative impact on the county because we will not be getting the benefit of that work."
A new natural gas plant would have made up for the loss of an old coal-fired power plant in Muhlenberg County that’s slated to close next spring.
KU and LG&E still plan to build a solar-generating plant, but Yonts believes it would have less economic impact.
Attorneys General from Kentucky, Indiana and 10 other states are suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over proposed greenhouse gas regulations.
The EPA has been required to regulate greenhouse gases—like carbon dioxide—since 2007, when the Supreme Court determined the gases posed a danger to human health. The lawsuit filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals on Friday takes issue with the way the EPA has proposed the regulations.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway joined the suit without input from the Beshear Administration’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. Conway referenced the lawsuit in his Fancy Farm speech over the weekend.
"In fact, you’re looking at the only Democratic Attorney General in the country who is standing up for our coal and our low electricity rates by suing the EPA over whether they even have the authority to implement these new rules," Conway said to the crowd Saturday.
Under the proposed regulation, Kentucky will have to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 18 percent, and Indiana by 20 percent. But the way the emissions reductions are reached is left primarily up to the states.