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Industrial Solar in Lexington, Kentucky

Two different utility-scale, ground-mounted solar projects have recently been proposed for development within the Rural Service Area of Lexington-Fayette County.

  • Details: Combined, these two proposals amount to over 1,000 acres of nationally recognized prime soils for solar development, located in eastern Fayette County along the I-64 and Winchester Rd. corridors.

Here’s What We Think

Fayette Alliance is supportive of renewable energy development, particularly solar on rooftops, brownfield sites, industrial areas, and already built environments.

  • However: We have serious concerns about the impacts of locating large-scale solar facilities on Lexington-Fayette County’s world-renowned soils. In addition to the environmental impacts and the loss of prime, nationally significant farmland, we are concerned about the precedent set by permitting these types of commercial and industrial uses in our agricultural zones.

Large-scale solar development is a complex land-use issue that must be thoughtfully addressed and informed by research and analysis.

  • Important: It’s critical that our community efforts for sustainability don’t come at the expense of the land that makes Lexington so unique.

Proposal No. 1: Silicon Ranch

Silicon Ranch, a Nashville-based and privately-owned solar company, has proposed a Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment (ZOTA) that permits different scales of solar development throughout Lexington-Fayette County, including in the Agricultural-Rural zone.

  • Details: The ZOTA was proposed to accommodate an approximately 800-acre solar farm off Haley Road in the Agricultural-Rural zone, made up of multiple tracts of land.
  • Need-to-know: This ZOTA change would apply county-wide, allowing for more developments of this type in the Agricultural-Rural zone.
  • Fact: In 2018, Shell became the largest shareholder in Silicon Ranch.

Next Steps

Lexington’s Planning Commission has postponed the approval of this ZOTA until more research can be conducted and more in-depth conversations can be had about the implications of allowing industrial solar developments in the Rural Service Area.

Get Involved

No opportunities for public input are currently scheduled.

  • Stay tuned: We will closely monitor this proposal in the coming weeks, keeping you updated throughout the process.

Read the Lexington-Herald Leader’s Solar Article on Silicon Ranch

View Silicon Ranch’s Website

View Silicon Ranch Project Photos


Proposal No. 2: Eastern Kentucky Power Cooperative

Eastern Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has proposed a 387-acre utility-scale solar development in the Agricultural-Rural zone on Winchester Road.

  • Details: This project is not governed by local planning and zoning.
  • Important: It does not require approval by the Planning Commission or Urban County Council. Instead, it is only subject to the Kentucky Public Service Commission application process and requirements.
  • Dig Deeper: EKPC is a not-for-profit utility company headquartered in Winchester, KY — owned and governed by 16 electricity distribution co-ops, that’s why they are not governed locally.

Next Steps

Fayette Alliance has filed a motion with the Public Service Commission to be considered for full intervenor status in the application of Case Number 2024-00129 regarding East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Inc.’s proposed solar facility in Marion and Fayette Counties. 

Read the Press Release About This Filing

Read the Full Project Proposal

Read the Lexington-Herald Leader’s Article on EKPC


About the Soil

The United States Department of Agriculture defines “Prime Farmland” as such:

Land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food. It has the combination of soil properties, growing season, and moisture supply needed to produce sustained high yields of crops economically if it is treated and managed according to acceptable farming methods.”

Using the USDA’s Web Soil Survey map, we attempted to determine approximately how much of the land proposed for solar development was categorized as “Prime Farmland.”

Process

  1. We took a map of Lexington-Fayette County’s PDR protected farms.
  2. We overlaid maps of the proposed solar development sites.
  3. We then used those maps to identify the soil quality of the proposed areas.

By our calculations, approximately 98.06% of the soil proposed for solar farming is considered “Prime Farmland” or of “statewide significance” by the United States Department of Agriculture.

  • Need-to-know: None of the proposed acreage is used for equine operations.
  • Consider: The soil that’s at risk is rich, fertile, and irreplaceable; capable of producing food for generations to come.