Coal mining became a big business during the Industrial Revolution. Large amounts of coal were need to power the steam engines of the day, providing the white-hot energy required to propel steamships and trains. Coal also transformed American factories, helping to increase productivity and providing jobs for countless American workers. Today, technological advances offer cleaner and more renewable forms of energy, and coal-fired power plants have been linked to environmental problems. So it’s ironic that in 2017, the Kentucky Coal Museum in Benham, Kentucky, decided to install 80 solar panels on its roof. The museum, which is owned by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, hopes that using solar power for its operations will lead to an estimated savings of $10,000 a year on energy costs. Through an agreement with the municipal utility board, the solar panels have the added benefit of helping to provide energy for the town of Benham, which is home to around 500 residents.
Power to the people:
- Coal is still king in the Bluegrass State, but the reality in Kentucky and elsewhere is that a typical residential solar panel system will pay for itself within seven years.
- The Kentucky Coal Museum has a “state of the art underground coal mine” exhibit, as well as a two-ton block of coal that’s perfect for fossil fuel fans looking to take a selfie.
- In addition to exhibits featuring early coal mining tools, the museum also contains part of the personal music collection of singer Loretta Lynn of Coal Miner’s Daughter fame.