A western Kentucky utility becomes the latest to move in to the renewable energy business.

Big Rivers won approval from state officials for seven test solar energy plants across the state.

For some, it may seem like a small start.

“They’re going to be used for educational and observational purposes,” says Big Rivers Electric Corp.

But the Kentucky Public Service Commission’s approval of seven small solar projects, have others hoping it leads to bigger things.

“The fields are getting larger and larger, and they’re finding that there’s economy in scale,” says Mary Cupp of the Sierra Club’s Pennyrile Chapter.

In the plan, test sites at Kenergy offices in Henderson and Owensboro will produce 30 kilowatts each. Big Rivers officials say they’ll be used to test solar energy’s ability to integrate in to the utility’s grid, and educate customers about the alternative energy.

“We’re always wanting to learn about new technology and we also wants to do what’s in the best interest of our member-owners,” Keach says.

The approval follows OMU’s decision to stop burning coal at their Elmer Smith Plant, while replacing it with another energy source, which has yet to be determined. The cost for all seven totals $500,000. Cupp says this encourages them to rely more on alternative energies, just as production costs continue to drop.

“Once you have your infrastructure in place for renewable, you have no costs for the fuel. it’s really a good economic event for all of us,” she says.

Utility officials say they expect to have all plants installed by the end of this year.