August 22, 2007 | By: Carol Lea Spence
LEXINGTON, KY.

The subject of renewable energy is on many people’s minds during these days of rising oil prices and concerns about global warming. The Kentucky Rural Energy Consortium will sponsor three public forums to discuss ideas for a renewable energy plan for Kentucky.

“These meetings are a great opportunity for people to obtain information and also have input into the process,” said Rich Gates, UK biosystems and agriculture engineer who conducts research on renewable energy sources. “The College of Agriculture is very interested in what our stakeholders have to say on this, and as core members of KREC we’re interested to hear their ideas and perspectives.”

Kentucky has joined 20 other states in supporting the national 25 x ’25 Initiative. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the goal of the initiative is that by the year 2025 “America’s farms, ranches and forests will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States while continuing to produce safe, abundant and affordable food, feed and fiber.” KREC and its partners, one of which is the University of Kentucky, are working to develop a plan for Kentucky to meet that goal. 

Jimmy Henning, associate dean for extension in the UK College of Agriculture, said Kentucky is well positioned to become competitive in renewable energy development, particularly when talking about cellulosic biofuel production, which includes forage crops and forestry products.

“A lot of our land obviously is suitable for forages and wood products, but not for row crops. We won’t grow corn well in eastern Kentucky, so that’s not going to be our advantage,” he said. “But in terms of the renewable fuels effort relating to the cellulosic type, we’re very competitive.”

Producing renewable energy is not only good for the environment; it can be good for Kentuckians’ wallets. Henning said it would make Kentucky more energy self-sufficient. 
And because it involves a renewable resource, there would be economic benefits to some areas of Kentucky that, at the present, don’t lend themselves to intense agriculture. 

“If you look at what’s happening to agriculture post tobacco buyout, you’re looking at intensive agriculture moving to the west. And then what are the economic opportunities for eastern Kentucky?” he said. “If this comes in, you’re talking about significant economic benefits to areas that have been really negatively affected by the loss of competitiveness in tobacco production.”

Each of the three public meetings will be held in a town hall format, which will allow for an open exchange of information and ideas. 

“These are an important component in our objective of developing an energy roadmap for Kentucky’s contribution to the 25 x ’25 plan,” Gates said. 

The roadmap team includes the Governor’s Offices of Energy Policy and Ag Policy, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, UK College of Agriculture, the University of Louisville and other KREC partners. They expect to complete the roadmap report by December 2007.

Meetings are scheduled for Monday, Aug. 27 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. EDT at the Frankfort Convention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 18 from 1 to 4 p.m. EDT at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset and Tuesday, Oct. 16 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. CDT at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton.

For registration information, visit http://www.kppc.org or call 502-852-0965.

Contact: 

Rich Gates, 859-257-3000, ext. 213, Jimmy Henning, 859-257-4302