Front Porch Blog

Solarize Wise is running strong with Sigora Solar

Earlier this summer, the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia kicked off Solarize Wise, a free community service to make it cheaper and easier for residents to access solar power in Wise County and the surrounding area.

More than 45 homes, farms, and businesses are already exploring how solar can be an attainable and smart choice for them after attending Solarize Wise info sessions earlier this month.

Solarize Wise participants are being offered a price about 20% below regular market rates for solar — making now the ideal time to jump on board. If you’re a solar energy novice, don’t worry. Sign up for a free home assessment online at SWVAsolar.org/solarize and we’ll walk you through the basics and help you decide is solar is right for you.

In a solarize program, a municipality or community group chooses a solar company to perform all the solar installations for the people who buy solar systems during the period of the solarize campaign. The installer is able to offer lower prices because they can get bulk purchase discounts on materials and solar equipment. It also helps the solar company save money on marketing and advertising.

solar panels

A solar array on an agricultural building, installed by Sigora Solar.

Sigora Solar was selected for
Solarize Wise after submitting a proposal detailing their experience, licenses, products and competitive pricing model. The Sigora team is excited to be working in Southwest Virginia again. In 2013 Sigora helped save Southwest Virginia taxpayer money by installing a solar hot water system on the Duffield Regional Jail. That project came in 15 percent under budget and was finished ahead of schedule, resulting in a savings of up to $40,000 dollars per year. Now Sigora is helping Wise County area residents save money with Solarize Wise.

Solarize Wise has deeper impacts than just the personal benefits to homeowners. The Solar Workgroup is committed to creating local workforce opportunities including internships and apprenticeships. Sigora Solar shares those goals and is offering opportunities to some of the local students who are already being trained as solar industry professionals at Mountain Empire Community College.

In 2016, Mountain Empire Community College was honored by the Virginia Community College System for the development of the mobile solar trailer known as SPARC-E. SPARC-E stands for Solar-Powered Alternative Renewable Clean Energy. It is a 5 kilowatt solar system built and designed by the community college’s students. Complete with battery storage capacity of 900 watts, SPARC-E brings electricity wherever it’s needed, providing the power source for medical services at the Wise County Rural Area Medical clinic or fun community events like a sound stage and bouncy house at the 2017 Southwest Virginia Solar Fair.

Attendees at the 2017 Southwest Virginia Solar Fair discuss about solar panels .

Attendees at the 2017 Southwest Virginia Solar Fair discuss about solar panels .


As the energy economy evolves and solar continues to grow, Southwest Virginia needs to be ready. Several counties in the area are pursuing the SolSmart Solar Ready certification to let businesses know that Southwest Virginia is a solar-friendly business location. The solar industry now employs more people than oil, natural gas and coal industries combined according to a 2017 study by the U.S. Department of Energy. Workforce development and certification training are crucial parts of Southwest Virginia’s economic goals.

The Southwest Virginia Solar Workgroup is dedicated to turning those goals into a reality. After brainstorming ways to diversify and revitalize the region’s economy at the 2016 Southwest Virginia Economic Forum, solar was identified as one of the key industries to pursue and the workgroup was created and tasked with formulating a roadmap for commercial scale solar projects. Flash forward to today — members of the workgroup are exploring several sites for upcoming development to save money for communities and continue Virginia’s energy-producing tradition.

Find out if solar power is a smart choice for your home, farm or business! Contact Lydia by emailing Lydia@appvoices.org or call (276) 679-1691 to sign up for a free solar assessment. More info available at SWVAsolar.org/solarize

Solarize Wise is a partnership between the Wise County and Norton Area Chambers of Commerce, Wise County Cooperative Extension, Mountain Empire Community College, People Inc., and Appalachian Voices.

A native of Southwest Virginia, Lydia is passionate about finding sustainable economic solutions in Appalachia, and is a firm believer in engaging with the local community. She is our AmeriCorps Southwest Virginia Solar VISTA for the 2016-17 service year.

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