A $200 million solar energy utility project is coming to Caldwell County with a targeted opening date sometime in 2023.
Geronimo Energy, a solar energy company based in Minneapolis, would set up the project in western Caldwell County, near Fredonia. The announcement was made by Magistrate Jeff Boone on Tuesday at the Caldwell Fiscal Court meeting.
Boone said he and Caldwell Property Valuation Administrator Ronald Wood met with Geronimo Energy on Monday to discuss the project.
"There are probably six or eight landowners who are going to be involved with leasing about 1,000 acres to them," he told the court. "(There is a) $200 million investment on (Geronimo's) behalf.
"This outfit -- it looks like they've got everything in motion, got their leases pretty well signed and looking at starting this fall with the infrastructure."
Wood said the project is expected to be fully functional in 2023.
"The tax side of the solar farm has become a hot topic," he told the court.
Boone said the $200 million investment would have "a significant impact" on Caldwell County in terms of tax revenue for the county.
"Probably more so than Bremner was when they came to town," he said of the baked goods company that opened in Princeton in March 1993. Bremner was sold in 2015 and the facility was bought by TreeHouse Foods in 2016.
Boone added that the net profits tax on the electricity that is sold will generate a lot of money. Most of that is likely to be reinvested, he said.
Boone said that Geronimo recommended that the county put some of its tax revenue toward local schools. He said that would be about $20,000 per year.
"I asked them about that (Monday)," he said, "and they said that their founder - a Mennonite - was approached about a wind farm on his property in Minnesota, and he researched it and saw the opportunities and bought the company himself.
"One caveat that they do is put money back into the local community, and it is earmarked directly to go to the schools."
Boone said that Geronimo would sell the electricity it generated to the national grid.
"You've got two lines that run through here," he said. "One of them already has a substation in here that they could route into, but there would have to be another substation built."
Boone also said he asked questions about the environmental impact on the county.
"I spent three hours investigating every aspect of (Geronimo) I could," he told the court. "There was really no negative environmental impact that I could find anywhere."
Wood said that Geronimo had sought maps from the county since last summer.
Boone said that solar energy companies have been checking out western Kentucky for about five years.
Boone said Geronimo would contract with people to maintain the project grounds and may employ "a handful of people," but not a lot of local people.
"They're pretty well self-contained," he said. "There's no moving parts. These panels will pivot, and there will be some maintenance on those, but not much."
Geronimo plans to host a public meeting in Princeton in the future. A date and location for the meeting has not yet been set.