Northern Kentucky companies active in solar energy adoption – The Lane Report

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A Duke Energy employee at the company’s solar farm in Crittenden, Kentucky.

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. — Renewable energy options are becoming increasingly important to both companies and site selection consultants. According to Area Development’s 20th Annual Consultants Survey, half of respondents said the need to meet sustainability goals and even achieve “net zero” emissions will moderately or greatly impact their clients.

Many major domestic and international companies with operations in Northern Kentucky’s Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties are working to integrate renewable, specifically solar, energy into their organizational operations to reduce their carbon emissions, decrease energy costs and achieve environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

Over the past decade, the solar market in the United States has grown at an average rate of 24% each year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The commonwealth of Kentucky is projected to see growth of 3,370 megawatts over the next five years, 16th amongst all states in this metric.

“We are encouraged by the scale with which Northern Kentucky companies continue to utilize solar and other renewable energies,” said BE NKY Growth Partnership CEO Lee Crume. “These projects are creating incredible momentum toward green energy solutions in our region.”

L’Oréal USA

L’Oréal USA was an early adopter of solar energy. In 2017, the company installed a 1.42-megawatt solar power generation system at its Kenton County location. At the time, this was the largest commercial solar array in Kentucky.

Haircare products for the Garnier, L’Oréal Paris, Matrix, and Redken brands are produced at this 686,000-s.f. plant, the company’s largest manufacturing site in the United States and largest worldwide by tonnage of products produced.

The 4,140 solar panels reduce carbon dioxide output by 1,005 tons each year. By 2025, L’Oréal will achieve carbon neutrality at all its sites, in terms of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, by improving energy efficiency and using 100 percent renewable energy.

Duke Energy, Amazon Air

In mid-2023, Duke Energy and Amazon Air began operation of their utility-scale rooftop solar site, the largest in Kentucky, on the roof of the Amazon Air Hub near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

More than 5,600 solar panels feed up to two megawatts of power directly onto the electric distribution grid, powering approximately 400 homes and businesses.

Duke also operates two solar power plants on a 60-acre property in Kenton County. The 17,000 solar panels at this site can produce up to four megawatts of electricity.

Duke Energy’s Walton, Kentucky solar facility.

Duke Energy has a companywide goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2050, and Amazon is aiming to reach net-zero carbon emissions across its operations by 2040.

R.A Jones

A global leader in the design and manufacturing of packaging machinery, R.A Jones, a Coesia company, announced its plans to add solar panels to the roof of its operations in Kenton County in July 2023. The project also includes six electric vehicle charging stations which have already been installed on the R.A Jones’ campus for use by company employees.

“At Coesia, we are committed to sustainability and innovative, environmentally responsible operations. The solar panel installation at our R.A Jones facilities in Kenton County marks a significant step towards reducing our carbon footprint,” said Jonathan Titterton, Coesia North America CEO. “With this initiative, we also demonstrate that technological advancement and sustainability can drive positive change in our industry and community. When fully operational, the ballasted solar power system will generate 100 percent sustainable, zero-carbon electricity at the 250,000-s.f. facility. During its 30-year life span, the system will offset 33,200 tons of atmospheric CO2, which is equivalent to taking 252 cars off the road for 30 years or planting nearly a half a million trees.”

The solar roof mount system, which will consist of 3,773 solar modules and cover about 85% of the building’s roof surface, is expected to produce more than 2 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year.

R.A Jones solar roof mount system installed by Melink Solar.

R.A Jones is the first Coesia company in the United States to power its facility with photovoltaic systems. The solar installation is projected to reduce the company’s electric bill by $6.4 million over its 30-year life span. Melink Solar, based in Milford, Ohio, is designing and installing the solar array which should be finished in Q1 2024. 

Mubea                                                                                                                   

Mubea North America has been headquartered in Boone County for more than 40 years. Recognized globally as an innovative automotive manufacturer that specializes in lightweight products for chassis, car body and powertrain, the Tier 1 supplier also has a sales/engineering office in Michigan and three production plants in Mexico.

A large part of Mubea’s ongoing mission is the integration of sustainability into every aspect of its business. For that reason, Mubea closely monitors any leakages of compressed air in its plants to avoid using more energy than actually needed.

Mubea has also launched various enhancements at its locations to recover heat energy and implemented cooling water recirculation in their specific production lines. In fact, Mubea is on track to be “Climate Neutral by 2035,” with plans to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 25 percent by 2025.

According to Tim Hertel, Mubea’s Senior Project Manager – NA Energy and Sustainability C.E.M. (Certified Energy Manager), the company is already purchasing green electricity at several Mubea locations with the goal of self-generation of electricity through wind and solar parks. Hertel explained that the “next step” end goal for Mubea is to fund new builds to truly offset coal through additionality.

Recently, Mubea sought proposals to add solar panels to the roofs of its Boone County campus and Hertel believes the company will begin investing in this project by 2027-2028.  

As Duke Energy’s largest manufacturing customer in Northern Kentucky, and to cover the location’s full energy demand, Mubea aspires to partner with other large energy consumers in the Duke Energy Kentucky service territory to contract an offsite solar development.

Organizations interested in partnering with Mubea in this endeavor can contact Hertel at [email protected].

Owen Electric Sources Solar through Cooperative Agreement

Some customers in Northern Kentucky receive electric service through Owen Electric Cooperative. Owen is member owned and purchases power from East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) then distributes it to homes and businesses in nine Northern and Central Kentucky counties.

Owen’s members have the option to invest in renewable energy by licensing panels at a solar farm on EKPC’s campus in Winchester. The solar farm boasts more than 32,000 panels that can collectively produce up to 8.5 megawatts of electricity. Each panel costs $460 for a 25-year license, and Pomeroy Technology LLC in Boone County currently holds licenses for 40 panels, an $18,400 investment. Each month, Pomeroy receives bill credits for the capacity and generation value of those panels.

For members, Owen President and CEO Michael Cobb said this solar farm has been a good alternative to onsite solar. Around 2015, Cobb said they were hearing from members, civic groups, and commercial and industrial organizations that wanted more in the area of renewables, and sustainable energy was becoming an increasingly important issue for both residential and commercial members.

“We take pride in being receptive to our members, so the Cooperative Solar program was developed for the benefit of offering a competitive alternative to onsite solar and a great way of addressing sustainability goals,” he said.

Getting Your Organization Involved with Solar

More than five percent of the nation’s electricity comes from solar energy, according to SEIA. This number will continue to grow as more companies adopt this technology, and the Greater Cincinnati region is leading the way on multiple fronts.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has been named the Greenest Zoo in America. The Zoo, a Duke Energy customer, broke ground in February on a 2.8 megawatt solar array that will provide shade for cars and buses while generating power for the Zoo and its neighbors.

This new array will be the largest publicly accessible urban solar array in the country, taking that title away from another array also at the Zoo. This project is being installed by Melink Solar.

For Duke Energy customers in Northern Kentucky, the company offers an easy way to start supporting solar energy through its Green Source Advantage program.

This program gives customers the opportunity to help bring new renewable resources online while receiving the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) to help them meet their ESG goals.

Mubea is one company taking steps to support solar energy production through RECs.

“We are trying to ‘green the grid’ through financing and through ownership of these certificates,” said Hertel. “We encourage all companies to do this and help expand green energy in our country.”

—By Christine Russell, VP of Strategy for BE NKY Growth Partnership and Executive Director of the Northern Kentucky Port Authority.

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