Toyota To Turn Coal Site Into Solar Site

In another example of corporations starting to see the value in solar, Toyota has announced a plan to develop a large scale solar plant on a coal site in Kentucky.

This post is courtesy of a recent article from wfpl.org

This project is part of the car manufacturer’s larger plan of purchasing 365 MW of solar electricity per year from contractors in the South and Appalachia regions of the country.

Credit: Kenny Stanley via RH Group

The size of the solar panel system comes in at 100 MW and will cost approximately $130 million. A 700 acre reclaimed mining site is where the panels will be set up. This particular project will also create somewhere between 50 and 100 new jobs. It is expected to be completed by 2021.

Adam Edelen, current Democratic candidate for Governor in Kentucky, a coal company – RH Group, and EDF Renewables – a French Renewable Energy company are the three parts of this collaboration.

At first glance, it may seem very strange that a coal company would be involved in a renewable energy project, but their reasoning is sound. “It doesn’t matter whether you care about the environment or not, this is pure economics.” – Ryan Johns (vice president of business development at RH Group. It’s a win-win-win. The land gets put to use again, money is made on cheap solar power, and the local economy gets a boost with job creation.

This partnership with RH Group is part of Toyota’s plan of being carbon negative by 2050. Toyota will now also be considered one of the major corporate players in the wave of companies going green.

Kentucky’s solar capacity would triple when this project is finalized. This should not be surprising to anyone as the state has not exactly been a leader in the adoption of solar power. In fact, the state’s restrictive net metering laws have made payback periods for solar much longer than what is typically available in other states.

Another reason why this project is being considered in Kentucky is the fact that natural gas has all but killed coal companies in the region. While RH Group is not abandoning their coal business, they admit that it makes good financial sense to at least take advantage of the opportunity that solar represents to help diversify their energy portfolio.

Assuming this project is a success, Johns plans on persuading other coal companies to do similar projects on their unused coal sites.

In a way, Toyota is living up to their slogan, “Moving Forward”, by investing in solar power.

We can expect large corporations and many smaller ones to continue to invest heavily into solar power in the coming years.

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