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Kentucky Utilities Choose Gas, Solar Over Coal

In response to a string of coal-fired electric generation plant closures, PPL Corp. utilities Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities (KU) plan to file with state regulators to build a second natural gas-fired baseload combined-cycle and solar generation facility in Muhlenberg County.

The proposed $700 million, 700 MW gas generating project will include a 10 MW solar generating facility costing another $25 million. LG&E and KU historically have been heavily dependent on coal-fired generation.

Last year the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) approved plans by the two PPL subsidiaries to build a gas-fired power plant in Jefferson County and to purchase an existing gas-fired plant in Oldham County (see Daily GPIMay 7, 2012). The new plant was considered necessary to replace coal-fired power plants at LG&E's Cane Run, and KU's Green River facility in Muhlenberg County and KU's Tyrone facility in Woodford County, as well as to meet a projected increase in demand for electricity by 2016.

A filing to the PSC is to be made before the end of this year, according to utility officials. The utilities plan to have the new gas-fired plant online by 2018 with the solar facility starting operations two years earlier.

If approved, the two Kentucky utilities' overall generation mix will be 59% coal-fired, 40% natural gas and 1% renewables. In 2010 about 96% of the utilities' power came from coal-fired facilities, according to the utilities' website.

The plans for building a second gas plant came after the two utilities reviewed various competitive bids, including renewables, buying supplies from existing generators and building more generation, a spokesperson for the utilities said.

"After careful analysis, building a second gas-fired combined-cycle plant at the existing Green River generation site proved to be the best long-term solution for baseload generation," said the spokesperson, noting that both short- (one to five year) and long-term (10 to 20 year) proposals were considered.

While the utilities are focused on the existing brownfield site at Green River, the spokesperson said several other sites are still being evaluated to determine an "optimal location."

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