Kentucky utility, bourbon maker cut deal on solar PV array

Clean energy, like good bourbon, is developed carefully and over time, borrow a tag line.

To that common end, Kentucky Utilities and Maker’s Mark are partnering on plans to construct a new solar array at the distillery’s property in Loretto, KY. The new solar array will be made up of about 560 solar photovoltaic panels and is expected to produce about 268,000 kWh per year.

The ground-mounted solar panel system will offset Maker’s Mark’s energy use required to maintain rickhouses where bourbon is stored for aging. This includes power for security, lighting, barrel elevators and office spaces.

“My grandparents’ vision when they created Maker’s Mark was not only that it might elevate the bourbon category, but also that we would constantly look for meaningful ways to give back to the community,” said Chief Distillery Officer and eighth-generation distiller Rob Samuels. “This partnership with KU to offset our energy use in the rickhouses fits that vision perfectly, matching up with our ever-increasing sensitivity about our place in the environment and the responsible use of natural resources.”

Based on the current project timeline, construction will begin in early fall, with the solar array operational before the end of 2019.

The long-term agreement is part of the utility’s Business Solar program. KU and sister utility Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E) first launched the Business Solar Program in 2016 for customers like Maker’s Mark who are taking the lead to adopt more renewable energy within their portfolio and propelling new solar energy growth for Kentucky by keeping it local.

The program, part of the utilities’ Green Tariff, empowers commercial and industrial customers to accomplish solar energy goals, without being burdened by the logistics of managing a system.

This 25-year partnership is a first of its kind for KU and allows the utility to build, own and maintain the solar array on behalf of Maker’s Mark; in turn, the company pays a monthly fee and earns bill credits for the energy produced by the system.

Each customized project is subject to approval by the Kentucky Public Service.

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