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Fayette County solar farm plan sees pushback from Lexington officials, farmland advocates

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A plan to build a 40 megawatt solar farm in east Fayette County is seeing pushback from both the city of Lexington and land-use advocates with the Fayette Alliance.

Both groups filed to intervene in a case brought in front of the Public Service Commission by the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC). If approved, the utility would move forward with the solar farm’s construction, plus another 96 megawatt farm in Marion County.

Fayette Alliance Executive Director Brittany Roethemeier says the proposed plan would cut into the amount of available farmland outside Lexington’s urban service boundary.

“I think across the country, as we've seen, large scale solar development is a really complex land-use issue,” Roethemeier said. “And we believe that it must be thoughtfully addressed and informed by robust research and analysis.”

She also worries the plan would set a tone for more industry to move into that farmland in the future.

“Fayette Alliance, as an organization, is also concerned about the precedent that could be set by permitting these types of uses for solar development, which by their nature are commercial and industrial,” Roethemeier said.

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton’s office also announced their plans to intervene in the PSC case with a press release Wednesday.

“Under state law, utilities are exempt from local zoning regulations,” the release said. “The only opportunity the city has to weigh in on this proposal before the Commission is by intervening.”

East Kentucky Power Cooperative says the farm would help meet a growing demand for sustainable energy, especially among businesses.

“EKPC plans to serve Kentucky residents and businesses with this proposed solar farm,” spokesperson Nick Comer said. “And that includes over 6,000 electric cooperative members in Fayette County. This project will meet our criteria for cost competitive, sustainable energy that will help our cooperative reduce our carbon footprint.”

If constructed, the solar farm would be built on 387 acres along the Fayette and Clark County border.

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Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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