Environment

A Louisville-based climate advocacy group is calling on the city to build a solar farm to meet its goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity for city operations by 2030.

The group released its proposal the same day as the U.N.’s latest report on climate change, which said there is still time to avoid catastrophic human-caused global warming, but only if the world stops burning fossil fuels as fast as possible. 

Louisville Metro Council adopted a resolution last year to transition to 100% renewable electricity for city operations by 2030, and for the entire community by 2040. 

The group behind that resolution is now pushing the city to take the next step. Sam Avery, a member of the 100% Renewable Energy Alliance of Louisville, said the city needs more energy conservation and rooftop solar, but that’s not all. 

He said the city needs a utility-scale solar installation to supply itself and the community with the renewable electricity that can’t be made from rooftop solar. Right now, that would mean installing about 200,000 solar panels on 500 acres of land, and that’s just for city operations, he said. 

“And that’s big, that’s taking up a lot of land, so we would much prefer using rooftops, garages, warehouses, tobacco barns parking areas, there’s a lot of space we could put solar on,” Avery said. “But the more conservation we can do, and the more rooftop solar we can install, the smaller that utility-scale installation will be.” 

Avery said a big question remains: who would build the solar field? Louisville Gas and Electric could do it, the city could do it, or it could hire a company to do it. 

Other cities are planning to reach renewable energy goals through power purchase agreements with independent solar producers, but right now LG&E has a monopoly on electricity generation in its service territory, which limits the ability of independent utility-scale energy producers, Avery said. 

Either way, Avery said the city needs to end its reliance on the coal-fired power plants that serve as the source for most of the city’s power. 

“The fires, the floods that we are seeing now are all the result of too much fossil fuel combustion and we have to stop that,” Avery said. 

The 100% Renewable Energy Alliance of Louisville is planning an online event September 18th to discuss the issue.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.