Solar company addresses community concerns at meeting

ibV Energy Partners Professional Engineer and Project Developer Jeff Chang, ibV Vice President of Business Development Robin Saiz and Commercial Appraiser for Kirkland Appraisers Nick Kirkland listen to questions Thursday from Aleta Studder of Stephensburg after a public meeting held by the company to address community concerns about its Rhudes Creek Solar project at the Hardin County Cooperative Extension Service in Elizabethtown.

Community members with questions about solar energy and its impact on Hardin County were given a chance Thursday night to ask their questions to representatives of one company with plans to construct a solar project in the area.

Executives from ibV Energy Partners hosted an informational session with a question-and-answer portion to address local concerns about their Rhudes Creek Solar project.

Some of the issues addressed were property values, where the energy goes, the possibility of the land being returned to agricultural use, the company’s policy on bonding and insurance, and whether solar panels are toxic or leak toxic chemicals.

The company organized four panelists, including ibV Vice President of Business Development Robin Saiz, University of Louisville Emeritus Professor of Economics Paul Coomes, ibV Professional Engineer and Project Developer Jeff Chang and Commercial Appraiser for Kirkland Appraisers Nick Kirkland, to address concerns from the community.

Saiz said ibV will require financing for the $93 to $97 million project, which has to be insured.

“The panels are warrantied themselves,” he said. “If there’s damage to these panels, …we do have ample insurance that will replace every panel and any infrastructure that’s out there. So we’ll be the ones that clean it up.”

If solar panels aren’t functional, the company can’t make money, so repairs would behoove the company.

“It’s certainly in our best interest to get the project up and running as quickly as possible” after sustaining damage, he said.

With a power purchase agreement with LG&E and Kentucky Utilities for 20 years and a guaranteed life of the panels is 35 years, Saiz said the company can revisit the power purchase agreement at the end of the 20 years or find other companies to purchase the power the project produces, which is 100 megawatts.

The 100 megawatts will be distributed to LG&E and Kentucky Utility customers, which Saiz said will most likely be in Hardin County for cost efficiency. Saiz added Dow Corning has a plant in Elizabethtown and at least four Hardin County companies supply Toyota’s operations in Georgetown.

As for property values, Nick Kirkland said his company’s studies find that solar projects have very little impact to adjoining property values.

The study he shared showed some properties increased by up to 5% and others decreased by 5%, but the vast majority of properties showed no change in value.

“The impact study is well supported in that there is no impact to property values to the adjoining sites,” he said.

Kirkland pointed to a subdivision built directly next to a solar farm completed in 2017 in Crittenden County in Kentucky where homes built and sold there showed no change in value.

Another point Saiz made was infrastructure, including the piles, cabling, panels and other products, at the project site can be removed.

“All of that material can be taken out and it will be taken out at the end of the life cycle,” he said.

Saiz also said the project has a removal bond, where the company will cover the cost of removal of the project at the end of its lifespan.

Another concern Saiz said he hears often is if their solar panels contain toxic chemicals. He said while some panels use thin film and contain toxic materials, that won’t be the case with this project.

“We don’t use that type of technology,” he said. “Silicone is the main component of our solar panels.”

Saiz said the glass also is tempered, so if damaged, glass won’t shatter all over the ground.

The panels also won’t contaminate ground and well water, Saiz said.

“There are no liquids inside of that thing that’s going to leach out and go into your groundwater,” he said.

Saiz said solar panels contain less lead than a shotgun shell and that lead is included in the solder holding components together, which also can’t contaminate ground water.

Contamination of the ground water was a primary concern for Aleta Studder of Stephensburg.

“I asked some of the environmental questions that concern us,” she said. “We live on a well system, so I wanted to understand about the runoff.”

Studder said following the meeting she appreciated the company’s willingness to listen and address hers and others’ concerns.

“I learned that the concerns community members have, they are willing to address,” she said. “I feel they are willing to look at those concerns with an open mind and address them and provide information to help support their project.”

Studder also appreciated the company plans to have bees and butterflies on its property to help with pollination in the area.

“We at one time tended bees,” she said. “I was kind of glad to hear that they will try to put in pollinators.”

While some of her concerns were addressed, Studder said she still hasn’t made up her mind whether solar is right for Hardin County.

“My feet are definitely on both sides of the fence,” she said. “When I am a property owner, I have concerns and I can see the value in solar energy. Making it where it’s available to those residents or the people of Hardin County is nice.”

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.

(1) comment

Barb

Do you really believe what these people are saying that are coming here from these foreign countries, trying to buy up or lease farms?

Then I've got some ocean front property in Arizona. If you'll buy that, I'll throw the Golden Gate in free.

When they first put this in the news about solar "farms", they said none of the electric it would be making would be used in Hardin County. Got it? NONE of it!! It will be sent to Georgetown & some place in northern Kentucky.

First of all, solar "farms" are not farms. They are industrial. I would much rather look at crops growing in the fields than look at constant humming solar panels. Cecilia is a nice, beautiful community, I pray we can keep it that way.

They don't care about this area or anywhere else. It's all about money. They are buying up this country piece by piece & government is letting them get by with it.

When these solar panels get approved, then we are stuck with them for at least 25 years and once it gets started farms all over will be bought up for more solar panels.

PLEASE help put a stop to it.

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