Experts believe that even the recent deregulation of the coal industry will not be enough to bring back coal jobs. 1923 is the past, and we are past the time when coal was booming — coal is in a rapid decline for a few reasons. The coal industry remains more a part of our country’s fast-transforming history than anything else. That’s the story of the solar industry today.
The Kentucky Coal Museum in Benham, Kentucky, is a prime example. It is the place to go to see fascinating coal history, the story of coal being extracted from the state’s mountains and burnt for electricity. Visitors can see all sorts of mining equipment after passing a two-ton block of coal at the front door. There is also the museum’s 1940s model electric locomotive from times past that delivered the Kentucky men into the mines. There is an exhibit dedicated to Loretta Lynn. Guests can visit an actual underground coal mine.
Visitor’s should also look up to enjoy the new addition to the Kentucky Coal Museum — their money-saving solar panels. An unprecedented shift is underway, and we are moving away from powering our lives by burning things, and into a future where our electricity comes from the sun, the wind, and the water.
Southeast Community and Technical College owns the museum and chose to install the solar panels to save money on energy costs. So, in favor of economics, renewable solar energy will be lighting the museum rather than coal.
The AP continues with the story and quotes Roger Noe, a former state representative who sponsored the legislation that created the coal museum: “It’s a little ironic or coincidental that you are putting solar green energy on a coal museum. Coal comes from nature, the sun rays come from nature, so it all works out to be a positive thing.”
Well, there is an immense difference in the two. One strips the mountain — takes the most lovely mountaintop and removes it — and then burns the resource to create pollution that damages human health and leads to premature death. Sunshine is practically infinite — renewable — and creating electricity from it doesn’t destroy human life.
Nothing needs to be removed once the panels are in place, only tapped from the never-ending sunshine falling on our planet. Coal clogs up the atmosphere instead.
No disrespect to the miners, even the children of the past who worked the mines to feed the family. Many workers can find jobs in renewable energy industries — primarily solar and wind.
The AP continues:
“The museum is in Benham, once a coal camp town whose population peaked at about 3,000, according to 85-year-old Mayor Wanda Humphrey. Today, it has about 500 people, and Humphrey says she is the mayor because no one else wants the job.
“It’s also the best place in town to get the most direct sunlight, which made it an ideal location for solar panels.
“‘The people here are sort of in awe of this solar thing,’ Humphrey said.”
Whether in Kentucky or California, the United States of America is moving away from coal because solar, wind, and even natural gas are less expensive. It’s about progress — as coal once was — not about going backward. Though, if you do want to go backward, a stroll through history, through a museum, is a sane way to do so.
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Images via Instagram Kentucky Coal Mine Museum and Kentucky Coal Museum Website
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