MALONE SUNLIGHT SOLAR FARM
Malone Sunlight Solar Farm Recognized in State Wide Publication.
Morgan County Solar Farm shows co-ops continue to be renewable leaders
On a hillside next to Licking Valley RECC’s warehouse in Malone, Kentucky’s newest solar farm towers row upon row above Steele Road.
Located in the heart of the mountains, Malone Sun-Light Solar is the vision of Wolfe County native Gary Booth and Licking Valley RECC, working in collaboration with Eastern Kentucky University and Danville-based Wilderness Trace Solar.
“The project shows that great things can be achieved when people work together,” said Kerry Howard, Licking Valley RECC general manager and CEO. “It’s going to be a great project for students to learn about renewable power.”
Booth, who retired from a successful career at Proctor & Gamble, invested in Malone Sun-Light Solar to show students that with modern technology, Eastern Kentucky has unlimited potential.
“I want kids thinking we are not behind,” said Booth, a native of Campton who attended Eastern Kentucky University and rose to become a vice president of Research and Development at P&G before his retirement. “I want students believing that we can do anything.”
The 932 solar panels at Malone Sun-Light Solar provide enough electricity to power about 50 homes.
Booth said students from local schools and EKU will monitor data during different times of the day and seasons of the year.
“Students will mine the data to learn about production of power, and they will learn how to extract learning from a large database,” he said. “Licking Valley said we are all for students learning, and we were a perfect match in that way.”
John May, Manager of Administrative Services at Licking Valley, said the co-op installed transformers and provided the land. He said Licking Valley’s 17,000 members in Breathitt, Elliott, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Rowan and Wolfe counties will benefit by getting renewable power at a competitive price.
This is not Licking Valley RECC’s first foray into solar energy.
“Late last year, Licking Valley and Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Co-ops dedicated Cooperative Solar Farm One in Winchester,” said May. “The new farm in Malone demonstrates that we continue to be leaders in renewable power.”
Booth, a life-long scientist who led the development of Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet paper, Folgers coffee and other products at P&G, said he embraces the philosophy of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers that technology can level the mountains to create new opportunities for Eastern Kentucky.
“I put all my energy into that premise,” he said. “I did the solar farm as a demonstration that people in the mountains have access to the same technology as anyone else.”
One of the greatest blessings in Gary Booth’s life was that television signals could not reach his parents’ home in Campton when he was a boy.
“All we had to do was read,” said Booth, who turns age 78 this December. “I read a lot of science-oriented books. By age 10, I knew I would be a scientist. Not having TV was a rich blessing.”
He attended Campton Elementary and Wolfe County High School, then went to EKU in Richmond to major in chemistry and math. While at EKU he met and married his wife Jane, and the two have been together for 56 years.
He completed a doctorate in organic chemistry at Ohio State University, then embarked on a long career in research and development at Proctor & Gamble.
“Bounty paper towels was my first product,” he said. “Then Charmin toilet paper where we researched how to make it more absorbent. I went to England and developed personal care products for Europe and the Middle East, and I also had responsibility to expand our products into Russia.”
The Malone solar project is the latest in a long series of solar projects he developed. For 20 years, he has worked with SonLight Power —a Christian organization bringing power to poor communities — to install solar panels in Guatemala, Haiti and multiple locations in Africa.
In September 2017, he and SonLight Power put 80 solar panels on the roof of Campton Baptist Church, installed a geothermal heating and cooling system and completed many other energy efficiency upgrades at the church. “They are pumping energy back into the system and are arguably the most energy efficient church in the nation,” Booth said.
He also was instrumental in the installation of a solar array on the roof of the new science building at EKU, where students will monitor power production and learn how to manage the data.
His latest solar project is scheduled to go online by late summer when 81 panels begin producing power at Campton Elementary.
Currently, he’s talking to Licking Valley about a project to grow bamboo to capture carbon and produce a product with multiple beneficial uses.
“It’s been an absolute delight working with Licking Valley and the co-ops,” he said. “Every way they could help, they did it.”