Solar project may be coming to Caldwell County

Spanning 1,900 acres, the proposed Caldwell Solar project anticipates providing 300 temporary jobs, generating $240,000 in annual local tax revenue, offsetting carbon dioxide emissions by 306,000 tons annually and designates $40,000 annually in education funds. The photovoltaic electric generating facility will be located in or near the Crider community. Caldwell Solar LLC estimates commercial operation can start in November 2023.

Caldwell County residents, farms and local government may be establishing the groundwork for green energy and new economies by constructing a photovoltaic electric generating facility that spans 1,900 acres.

National Grid Renewables, formerly known as Geronimo Energy, is the Minnesota-based renewable energy development company planning and spearheading the Caldwell Solar project, doing business under Caldwell Solar, LLC.

“National Grid Renewables develops projects for corporations and utilities that seek to repower America’s grid by reigniting local economies and reinvesting in a sustainable future,” according to its website.

National Grid is part of a multi-pronged venture capital entity, whereby its renewable energy business component brings solar and wind projects to fruition.

The project is in the pre-application phase. The issuance or denial of a construction certificate by the Kentucky Electric Generation and Transmission Siting Board in March 2022 will mark the onset of the project.

The pre-application phase requires environmental studies, public information meetings and a notice of intent.

The three phases that follow are the application phase, in September; the hearings phase, in January 2022; and the decision phase, in March 2022.

The project’s goal is to interconnect Caldwell County to the Barkley 161 kV transmission line of Big Rivers Electric Corporation infrastructure to become a local renewable energy merchant.

The facility will generate up to 200 megawatts of renewable energy. The Caldwell Solar project narrative indicated that $240,000 will be generated in annual local tax revenue, and carbon dioxide emissions will be offset by 306,000 metric tons annually — equivalent to removing 66,000 cars from road operation annually.

Acting as a merchant for commercial and industrial customers, Caldwell Solar, LLC, estimates the commercial operation date will be November 2023.

Undoubtedly, the project will have an economic impact.

The project narrative estimates tax revenue can reach upwards of $6.6 million in 25 years.

Further, while creating 300 temporary jobs, only seven jobs will become permanent.

Capital investment for the project is $317 million.

Lastly, under the agreement, there is a designated annual education fund of $40,000.

The required and or additional services for the project are zero, which means local resources and services will remain sustainable.

Implementing the photovoltaic electric generating facility requires modules, panels, inverters, racking, access roads and various other electrical and mechanical components.

The site of the facility will be in or near Crider.

The engineering component of the narrative states there are no harmful pollutants or negative health impacts, no water or air emissions are produced, there is minimal sound and noise disturbance, it’s odorless, and perennial plantings will promote biodiversity.

As part of the Kentucky permitting process, three studies are underway: Wetlands, Waters, and Streams; Cultural Resources, and Wildlife and Habitat.

There are five studies scheduled for fall 2021: Land Use and Property Values, Noise Evaluation, Transportation Impact, Visual Effects, and Economic Impact.

It is expected to take 12-18 months to build the facility and prepare all necessary components for operation. During the project build-out, site preparation, pier installation, racking installation, module installation, interconnection, and re-vegetation will occur.

On June 17, from 4 to 7 p.m., a public information meeting will be hosted at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center at Princeton.