Edelen focused on solar project in Pike County, bridging political divide; no time for governor’s race

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

A man who is considered by many to be a possible candidate for governor next year said he wants to finish a major solar project that could bring hundreds of jobs to Appalachia before he will consider a run.

Democrat Adam Edelen, who served one term as Kentucky’s state auditor before losing his re-election bid to Republican Mike Harmon, spoke with Kentucky Today about his new project.

“Everybody in Kentucky who pays attention to politics knows I’d like to be governor,” he said. “But there are other issues I’m working on.  Primary among them is a massive solar project in Appalachia, that has the promise of about 400 jobs for out-of-work coal miners. That really takes precedence now, and sometime after the election, I’ll be able to make a decision about re-entry into public life.”

Adam Edelen (Photo by Tom Latek)

He said he has been involved with the project for about two years, which is in Johns Creek, in Pike County, and could take several more years to complete.

“This is a big, important thing,” Edelen said. “I’d hate to see it lost to politics and I’m just not going to take my eye off the ball just yet.”

He described just how important the project is to him.

“Holding corrupt public officials accountable for their misdeeds in office, uncovering the untested rape kits, working with Gov. Steve Beshear during the Great Recession to keep the ship of state afloat, those are all real hard things. But the most difficult thing I’ve ever done is bringing together a coal company with a renewable energy company, to propose the largest solar installation in this part of the country, and certainly the first in Appalachia.”

Edelen said the proposed plant would generate more than 100 megawatts of electricity, increasing by some 250 percent the amount of solar power in Kentucky today. It would require between $125 and $150 million in capital investment and would retrain about 400 out-of-work coal miners.

He also believes this can bridge the political divide between the two parties in Kentucky.

“Bringing Republicans and Democrats together is far easier than bringing together solar developers and coal executives,” he said. “But we’ve got it and we’re doing this big important thing; and if it works, it will be transformative.”

Edelen said these projects take five to seven years.  

“We’re about two years in and hope to be able to announce a construction start date sometime next year, by the end of this year.”

The project has taken its toll on him, he said.

“This is why I look so haggard. I’m not sleeping a lot right now. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever been part of. It’s important economically, it’s important culturally, it’s important technologically, and it communicates to the world that distressed communities like in Appalachia or inner cities, for that matter, can be something other than victims of their own history. They can start writing a new future.”    

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