A proposed solar farm project in Pike County is accelerating forward, thanks to the recently-announced involvement of an automotive giant.

At the TEDxCorbin economic development forum in Corbin this weekend, Berkley Energy executive Ryan Johns and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Adam Edelen announced that Toyota had joined in the partnership between the two for the development of a 700-acre solar farm near Johns Creek. Johns, one of the developers on the solar farm project, said the proposed solar farm on Bent Mountain is expected to consist of a half-million solar panels, and will likely see significant progress in its development now with the inclusion of Toyota in his and Edelen’s partnership.

“The final step was needing power to be purchased after construction,” Johns said, indicating Toyota could purchase the electricity generated at the solar farm. “This is the final piece in getting everything done. For this area it’s a very big thing.”

Co-developer Adam Edelen called Toyota’s involvement in the project “extraordinarily exciting”

“This will put Eastern Kentucky and its workers on the map in terms of development,” Edelen said. “This is historic and it brings opportunities to Eastern Kentucky and opportunities to move the region forward.”

The solar farm project was announced in April 2017. The solar farm’s construction is expected to create 200 construction jobs, and approximately 50 sustained jobs for the operation of the farm.

Edelen said he hopes construction will begin this summer, following a training period for perspective installers.

“Now, focus shifts to workforce development and training, especially for out-of-work coal miners, in installing these solar panels,” Edelen said. “After that, after some job training, hopefully we can begin construction this summer.”

Johns said this past weekend’s announcement was a “soft announcement,” and a more formal event will be held at a later date to tout the partnership. He added that there is little information he can currently release about Toyota’s full role in the partnership.

Johns added, however, that Toyota’s involvement moves the project forward.

“We had to have a partner that was willing to finish the last piece of it,” Johns said. “This is huge for this area. This is huge for this region.”

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