Developers working on the solar project in the Mt. Olive community of Russell County say they are invested in the project and have no plans of abandoning it, despite some concerns talked about by local residents over the last couple months.
Solomon VanMeter, the Lexington-based Project Development Senior Advisor for ENGIE North America, spoke to WJRS News late last week and said the company still has every intention to move forward with the project and has a significant invest in seeing it come to fruition.
“We are in fact, already tens of millions of dollars into this project already, so my message would be that we are not walking away from this project,” VanMeter said. “We are definitely financially, and in every other way, committed to building these projects.”
Note: VanMeter’s reference of projects refers to similar projects under development in nearby Green and Taylor counties.
In short, the project’s hold up boils down to logistical and contract concerns over the purchase price agreements of selling power due to changes in the price every 3-5 minutes, according to VanMeter.
“It’s something that will get resolved,” VanMeter said. “But it’s a contract negotiation thing. It has nothing to do with the physical part of doing the project. We are getting more consultants involved and doing more studies on the projections of where those prices are expected to go. We will get it resolved, but in the meantime, we can’t sign these contracts until everyone involved is in agreement on what that looks like.”
“The physical piece is good, and it’s just this commercial piece we are trying to get worked out,” VanMeter added.
One of VanMeter’s roles in the project is communicating with the landowners involved in the project. He said in discussions with them, they have been very understanding of the project’s development.
“We stay in close communication with them, and they all understand what the situation is,” VanMeter said. “… they are still very supportive of the project. We really have the best landowners, particularly in Russell County. They are great to deal with and have been very supportive throughout the process, but they are ready to get going.”
Another topic VanMeter was asked to address was in regard to potential involvement of Amazon. Rumors have circulated over the last couple months that Amazon had a role in these south central Kentucky solar projects. VanMeter said Amazon is a major consumer of renewable energy, but said the company is not at a point to be able to talk about potential customers.
“Amazon is the largest purchaser of green energy in the world,” VanMeter said. “They are off takers of some projects we own with the projects we have across the country and across the world.”
VanMeter referenced a TIME Magazine article published last September in which a large plot of land in North Carolina was developed as a solar operation by Carolina Solar, later leased to ENGIE, and the site’s power was sold to Amazon.
According to Amazon, the company has four solar operations in Kentucky, located in Garrard County, Madison County, Fleming County, and Caldwell County.
“We can’t disclose right now who the off takers are on our project right now since that has not yet been announced,” VanMeter said. “Any talk about who the customer is on this project at this point is just talk.”
So what does the timeline look for further development on the project? VanMeter said he isn’t sure yet, but he’s hopeful it is soon.
“We don’t know really,” VanMeter said. “We hope it happens any day. We have asked our landowners to give us an additional year but every day we wait costs us, so we are not interested in waiting a minute longer than we have to until we can get it done and we are working every day to get these issues resolved. I think it’ll be sooner rather than related.”