The decision is being called "a little ironic."
For those looking to restore the coal industry and bring back coal jobs, don’t look to Kentucky Coal Museum to help. Although the museum was first built because the town it’s in, Benham, was built on and around the coal mining industry, the museum is now turning to solar energy to combat rising electricity costs.
The small town of Benham at its peak had only 3,000 residents; that number has since decreased dramatically, with only 500 residents currently occupying the town. On their website, its description calls it “the little town that International Harvester, coal miners and their families built!”
“It’s a little ironic or coincidental that you are putting solar green energy on a coal museum,” said Roger Noe, a former state representative who sponsored the legislation that created the coal museum. “Coal comes from nature, the sun rays come from nature so it all works out to be a positive thing.”
Though he’s correct in saying that coal comes from nature, using it yields an entirely different outcome than when using the sun’s rays. To produce energy from coal, the coal must be burnt, which produces tons of carbon that is vastly harming the environment and contributes greatly to air pollution, which significantly hurts the health of all living beings on the planet.
The building is owned by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the college is expected to save as much as $8,000 per year by switching partially to solar energy. The town’s residents are described as being “sort of in awe of this solar thing.”
The town used to be a coal camp town, according to 85-year-old mayor Wanda Humphrey, which explains why the population is so tiny. Humphrey claims that she is only the mayor because no one else wants the job. She is rather jovial about the smallness of the locale, and told the Associated Press,
“It takes our entire police force – we have one person, we have Ryan – to get me in the building and back out.”
Transitioning to solar energy in a town that boasts about its coal mining origins is absolutely a sign of the times, and hopefully more large buildings and even residents follow suit.