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Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency looking at wind, solar power

The board of directors of the Frankfort Plant Board heard an update at Tuesday’s regular meeting on their new energy-purchasing group’s moves toward adding renewable sources to its portfolio.

Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KyMEA), which the plant board voted 3-2 to sign on to in August, is developing a plan for a request for proposal that would add renewable energy resources to the list of KyMEA power providers.

Vent Foster, FPB assistant general manager of operations, said KyMEA consultants and the board are looking at wind and solar power.

KyMEA is a group of public utilities that the Frankfort Plant Board joined after deciding to stop using Kentucky Utilities. The group includes Barbourville, Bardwell, Benham, Corbin, Falmouth, Madisonville, Paris and Providence.

A community nonprofit organization, EnvisionFranklinCounty, has criticized the KyMEA all-requirements contract, which the group has argued could reduce likelihood of seeking out renewable energy sources, as well as inhibit efficiency and conservation efforts, during the term of the 10-year contract Frankfort signed on to.

Foster said exploring renewable power sources to include in the KyMEA portfolio was always part of the plan.

The power providers are conventional so far, meaning coal and natural gas, but Foster said that studying those options was completed first. KyMEA currently has contracts with Big Rivers Electric Corporation, Illinois Power Marketing Company and the Electric Plant Board of the City of Paducah.

“The second thing that KyMEA always was going to do was look at all the renewable options out there, narrow it down to what would work for us,” Foster said. “Once we identified those, if they were reasonably priced … go ahead and issue an RFP (request for proposal). So, we’re kind of at that point.”

Foster said KyMEA began looking into renewable sources over the summer.

“The major, base-load contracts were ironed out back in the fall. And the engineers have been doing the study on the renewable options that would be best to choose,” he said.

At its Dec. 14 meeting, the KyMEA Board made some directives to take more steps in that direction. The KyMEA Board is made up of voting members representing each of its member municipalities.

The board voted to finalize its Assessment of Renewable Resource Options and to develop a draft of a plan for the request for proposals to provide capacity and energy from renewable resources. The board also asked that the request include specifically wind and solar and that preference be given to Kentucky resources. Lastly, the request includes the construction of solar facilities connected to KyMEA member systems.

KyMEA had narrowed down the renewable options they would further research to wind and solar, Foster said. They had eliminated biomass as a possibility because of the high cost.

He added that the analysis KyMEA has been working on doesn’t just look at the technology, but looks at existing vendors and projects to get a realistic idea of the costs of different renewable power sources.

“… you’ve got all kinds of these offerings and they can come from anywhere and do all kinds of things,” Foster said. “But what KyMEA did was basically narrow that down to two that make financial sense. There were lots that were three and four times the cost of what our energy is now.”

Foster said it would be a couple of months before the KyMEA board had a request for proposal to decide on.