A custodian of the coal industry’s heritage in the eastern United States has been forced by economic woes to switch to solar-powered energy. The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham told the local CBS-TV affiliate, WYMT-TV, on April 6 that it could save as much as $10,000 annually by changing to rooftop solar.
The museum – which offers exhibits such as the floor plan of a typical underground coal mine, an actual two-ton block of coal, and a 1940s’ model electric locomotive – is owned by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Communications Director Brandon Robinson told WYMT that they are strapped for money and that this project will help save at least $8,000 to $10,000, off the energy costs on the building alone.
The work began on April 4 to power the energy, not by coal, but by the sun.
The project was funded through an outside foundation. It cost thousands of dollars, but Tre Sexton, the owner of Bluegrass Solar in Whitesburg, Kentucky, which is installing the panels, believes the result will pay for itself.
“I think everybody knows when we’re talking about attractions like this – these high-volume, low-traffic municipal attractions – something has got to give, to keep their expenses down,” said Sexton.
Sexton said an average house could be run by 20 panels. That would cost somewhere from $17,000 to $20,000, but would pay off within five to seven years.
The college recently has faced budget cuts, but Robinson said the money saved will go right back to the college.