The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia is a group of nonprofit and community action agencies, colleges, state agencies, 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, policy analysis from Southern Environmental Law Center, program development assistance from Virginia Energy, technical assistance from paleBLUEdot, and regional solar planning with The Nature Conservancy.
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This Action Plan summary serves to outline the goals, action strategies, and implementation plan for realizing these priorities within the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia. Click Here to view the Action Plan Update.
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.