We are a group of nonprofit and community action agencies, colleges, state agencies, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, planning district commissions and other interested citizens and businesses seeking to develop a renewable energy industry cluster in the seven coalfield counties of Southwest Virginia. The workgroup is co-convened by the UVA-Wise Office of Economic Development & Engagement, People Inc. and Appalachian Voices, with facilitation assistance from Dialogue + Design Associates.
Read more about the Solar Workgroup background and progress here, and check out our timeline and accomplishments infographic here. And check out the Solar Workgroup Facebook page! Participation in the Solar Workgroup is open to all interested parties. To learn more, sign up using the form in the right column of this page or contact Adam Wells at Appalachian Voices: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In October, two school boards in SWVA passed resolutions calling for fair access to solar financing and net metering programs that make solar possible for schools and local governments. See the Wise County resolution here, and the Tazewell County resolution here, and see an October 15th press release with more local governments speaking out here!
- On September 2, 2020, the Solar Workgroup announced a new initiative, Securing Solar for SWVA, to help building owners go solar while creating local solar jobs. Building owners interested in going solar join an interactive and informational webinars on November 10th and 17th. Check back for more information soon!
- On August 6, 2020, Lawrence Berkley National Lab announced that the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia will receive technical assistance through the National Community Solar Partnership. The technical assistance will help develop community solar project design and financing for People Inc.’s multi-family housing developments.
- The most recent Solar Workgroup meeting was Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Click here for the meeting summary.
- On June 10, 2020, the Workgroup issued a commercial-scale solar RFQ seeking a co-development partner. Responses were due July 15.
- May 29, 2020 – Check out the Solar Workgroup in the News: Opportunity for Solar to Dot the Coalfields of Southwest Virginia
- On April 28, 2020, the GO Virginia Region One Council recommended funding for two innovative energy projects from Southwest Virginia, Project Energizer and Project Innovation. Read more here.
- On April 2, 2020, the Workgroup issued an RFI for a commercial-scale solar development partner(s). Responses were due May 11, 2020.
Solar Workgroup Background
The Workgroup grew out of the Economic Forum held at University of Virginia’s College at Wise on May 12, 2016.
The economic benefits of a renewable energy industry in Southwest Virginia could be significant, especially if it grows to include all aspects of the solar value-chain, from manufacturing to engineering to installation. Regional electricity demand is expected to grow over the next 8 years and the types of businesses being recruited to the area will rely on abundant, redundant, and renewable energy. Fulfilling a part of that demand growth with locally generated renewable energy would provide an economic boon and a powerful leverage point for scaling up a diverse regional renewable energy industry sector.
A recent economic impact analysis conducted by Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy showed that developing just 26 megawatts of solar in Southwest Virginia could:
- Create more than 300 construction jobs and 127 maintenance job-years;
- Generate over $40 million in local economic activity and pay living wages;
- Represent almost $50 million in private sector investment; and,
- Generate over $80 million of valuable renewable energy.
In 2017, we conducted a stakeholder process to jointly and collaboratively create a roadmap for renewable energy economic development in Southwest Virginia’s coal mining region.
In Nov. of 2017, the Workgroup released the Solar Roadmap of Southwest Virginia detailing a multi-faceted strategy for establishing a vibrant solar energy hub in the coalfields of far Southwest Virginia. The report explores the issues of funding, policies, workforce training and education as they relate to solar advancement in the region, and identifies 15 sites that would be ideal models for solar installations. It identifies opportunities for specific renewable energy projects across the region, as well as workforce development needs, supply chain gaps, and local business opportunities. It also identifies project capital networks and lay out strategies to generate project capital. We are now working together to implement the recommendations and strategies of the roadmap for years into the future.
2017 Economic Analysis, Site Assessment and Profiles: Downstream Strategies, working with project partners, completed the site analysis and profiles of potential solar site candidates, along with an economic analysis for solar development in Southwest Virginia, referenced in the Roadmap. Click on the first image below to view the Economic Analysis and the second image to view the site profiles.