By Robert Hadley
Thriving metropolitan regions require adequate supplies of energy and clean water, which makes it no surprise Northern Kentucky is seeing both commercial and residential growth. Its key utilities provide ample power and water supplies augmented with environmentally friendly thinking.
Northern Kentucky’s big advantage is its location in one of the nation’s historically lowest-cost states for utilities. This has been true for electric power because of the state’s ready natural local feedstock resource from coal mining, said Andrew Melnykovych, spokesperson for Kentucky’s Public Service Commission.
“As to the reasons for relatively low rates, in Northern Kentucky itself, costs tend to be lower because the service territories of both Duke and the Northern Kentucky Water District are densely populated urban/suburban areas,” he said. “The costs of serving those types of areas are generally lower due to the high customer density.”
According to the website ElectricChoice.com, Kentucky’s 2017 average cost for commercial customers 9.63 cents per kilowatt hour, ranking below adjacent state Ohio (9.91 cents).
The non-profit Northern Kentucky Water District cites eight projects completed or ongoing in 2017, including water main extensions, replacements or relocations, as well as improvements to the Taylor Mill plant and leak detection enhancements throughout its system.
Drone and solar technology
From its origins as a rural electric co-op in 1937, Owen Electric today is part of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and provides power to its 61,000 customers in nine counties.
Although Owen Electric sources much of its power from 15 landfill gas plants, its partnership this year with East Kentucky Power Cooperatives (EKPC) launched it into the nascent solar energy market. As Touchstone members, both Owen Electric and EKPC collaborated on the 32,000-panel Cooperative Solar Farm One, a 60-acre installation (Kentucky’s largest) in Winchester, that comprises 15 other member-owner cooperatives in the state.
Cooperative Solar Farm offers an innovative business model for customers, allowing them to license the output of specific panels for 25 years. This lets customers actively participate in renewable energy for a one-time fee of $460.
Beyond innovative rates and energy efficiency programs, Owen Electric contributes to economic development through a program called PowerVision that enhances commercial and industrial site searches. Using drone technology, PowerVision provides prospects with an aerial showcase of available tracts.
“In addition to the aerial view of available sites, PowerVision provides vital information about the surrounding infrastructure,” said Mike Stafford, manager of business and government relations. “This is one of many tools that helps Owen Electric contribute to the economic success of Northern Kentucky.”
Major grid investments by Duke
While recent growth in Northern Kentucky has been “unprecedented,” Duke spokesperson Sally M. Thelen said the company was prepared to meet emerging demand.
“We are in the midst of major grid infrastructure investments in both electric and natural gas on our system to improve the reliability, safety and security,” Thelen said. “We are also bringing digital infrastructure to our Kentucky customers through smart-meter technology. This deployment began in fall of 2017 and will be complete by end of 2018.”
Through an Urban Revitalization Program begun in 2011, Duke Energy has given nearly $700,000 in grants to 25 projects in Northern Kentucky, Thelen said, to “help spur growth in the urban core.”At least three projects have been in Covington projects.
A key part of its Northern Kentucky infrastructure is the East Bend Station in Boone County, a 650-megawatt, single-turbine plant operating on the banks of the Ohio River since 1981, Thelen stated. She called the river a “vital” natural resource to the plant.
Kentucky also receives natural gas from Duke.
Thelen cited Duke Energy’s commitment to urban revitalization and grid improvements as key selling points that assure potential industrial customers of reliable resource. She said the utility is planning for additional capacity expected over the next three to four years.
“As manufacturers ourselves, we offer some of the most cost-competitive energy services in the country,” Thelen said. “Keeping these costs low attracts manufacturing to the commonwealth. We estimate that our cooperative efforts, along with those of state and local economic development officials, have contributed to the creation of nearly 20,000 Northern Kentucky jobs and more than $2 billion of capital investment in northern Kentucky since 2006.”
Bavarian landfill gas plant
Although other power producers use landfill-to-energy plants, the one Bavarian Waste Services has created in Walton, Ky., with EKPC now ranks as the state’s biggest landfill energy producer in terms of megawatts generated. This is despite being physically smaller than competitors, according to Bavarian. In June 2017, The Lane Report covered the expansion and resulting 50 percent output boost, enough to power 2,700 homes.
“This power plant at Bavarian Landfill plays an important role in providing safe, reliable, affordable energy for our 16 owner-member cooperatives and more than 1 million Kentuckians served by those co-ops,” said Don Mosier, EKPC’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President.
EKPC and its 16 owner-member cooperatives are known as Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.
The plant recycles methane released during waste decomposition for EKPC to use in electric power production.
“This is resource recovery at its best,” said Jim Brueggemann, president of Bavarian Waste. “It’s not only efficient but clean, and transforms our landfill into an energy factory.”
Owen Electric Cooperative
PO Box 400
Owenton, KY 40359-0400
Owen Electric Cooperative is Northern Kentucky’s not-for-profit electric provider, having served the area for nearly 80 years. Owen Electric continually leads the way in the electric distribution industry, utilizing innovative technology such as PowerVision drone technology to showcase industrial and commercial tracts and GPS mapping to enhance member’s energy efficiency, power quality, and service reliability. Owen Electric also offers economic development incentives and competitive commercial and industrial rates.
Walton – bavarianwaste.com
Cincinnati, OH – duke-energy.com
Rumpke Of Kentucky
Butler – rumpke.com
Sanitation District No.1
Fort Wright – sd1.org
Owen Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Owenton – owenelectric.com
Best Way Disposal
Burlington – bestway-disposal.com
Northern Kentucky Water District
Erlanger – nkywater.org
Stand Energy Corp.
Cincinnati, OH – standenergy.com
Smartwatt Energy Inc
West Chester, OH – smartwattenergy.net
Information provided by Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce