A recent executive order by President Donald Trump seeks to halt former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan while pledging to revive the coal industry, but many rural communities once dedicated to coal are actually embracing renewables. In an economic move that reinforces that trend, even the Kentucky Coal Museum is now running on solar power.
Located in Benham, Kentucky—a one-time “Cadillac” of coal camps—the museum connects visitors to the lived reality of a coal miner’s life in the early 20th century, connecting the rise of mining with the country’s history of industrialization.
But powering the building isn’t cheap. Before installing their first rooftop solar panels, the museum’s energy costs were regularly in the range of $2,100 a month. Once all 80 panels are up and running, the museum anticipates energy savings of $8,000 to $10,000 each year.
“Really the first time that I sat down and was talking about it with everybody, I was like... are you for real? They’re really going to go for this?” Tre Sexton, owner of the solar company managing the installation, told the Courier-Journal. “I mean, that would be like showing up at a bank and they ask you if you’d mind taking some of this money out of the vault.”