KENTUCKY COAL MUSEUM LOOKING TO SOLAR POWER TO HELP CUT ELECTRICAL COSTS
BENHAM, Ky. – The Kentucky Coal Museum, which is owned by Southeast Kentucky Community
and Technical College (SKCTC), is hoping to soon be mostly powered by the sun.
The effort comes as the region looks at ways to become more forward thinking and diversify
the number of resources used for power distribution.
Bluegrass Solar out of Whitesburg, working in conjunction with Star Solar in Indiana,
started placing the solar panels on the roof of the museum earlier this week.
The project, funded by an anonymous outside foundation, was spearheaded by the Benham
Power Board, a local municipal utility in Benham, where the museum is located. Other
stakeholders are the Harlan County Fiscal Court, the City of Benham, the Benham School
House Inn and the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
The cost of the entire project, including two other planned solar sites, is expected
to cost between $400,000 and $500,000 and will be funded by different philanthropic
As part of the project, around 80 solar panels will be installed on the roof of the
building. More than half of those are already in place.
Right now, the electric bill for the museum averages out around $2,100 each month.
SKCTC officials say this project will hopefully save the college between $8,000 and
$10,000 a year in energy costs. Those savings will be in the form of bill credits,
given by the power board.
While the solar panels will supplement energy used by the museum, the building will
still be tied into the grid. The panels are expected to have an output of 60 kw, which
would, if used by themselves, would power about 90 percent of the building’s current
utility needs. The energy will be transferred to the local power plant, which will
help decrease the amount of power the power board has to purchase from their supplier,
which will lead to savings across the board.
Benham Power Board officials say the panels on the museum are just part of the project.
Two other nearby locations, including a local park and the Tri-City Little League
field, are also being looked at as potential sites for additional solar panels.
College officials also hope that this project will eventually lead to educational
training opportunities, where students could eventually train on how to install, repair
and maintain solar panels.
At this point, there are no plans to supplement any additional college facilities
with solar power.
The Kentucky Coal Museum hosts and educates thousands of visitors who want to learn
about the history of coal and coal mining each year.
If you would like to visit the museum’s web site for more information, you can find it at http://kycoalmuseum.southeast.kctcs.edu/
Photo caption: Installation of solar panels on top of the Kentucky Coal Museum is
underway now. Picture by WYMT’s Sarah Anderson.