Front Porch Blog

A roadmap to boosting solar in Southwest Virginia

Cover of the Solar Roadmap for Southwest Virginia

The Solar Workgroup released this “roadmap” in November 2017 to lay out the steps needed to grow a robust solar energy sector in Southwest Virginia.

After over a year of planning, discussion and many long hours, the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia released its Solar Roadmap last week.

The workgroup is co-convened by Appalachian Voices, People, Inc., and The University of Virginia’s College at Wise and includes other nonprofits, schools, state agencies and citizens passionate about harnessing the power of the sun.

The report outlines a path for solar energy to gain a foothold in seven historically coal-producing counties in Southwest Virginia, recommending pro-solar state policy reforms along the way. The roadmap also sets the goals of expanding community education and outreach and growing solar workforce development and entrepreneurship opportunities.

See the roadmap here!

A major aspect of the roadmap is identifying and describing potential financing models for 15 solar “ambassador” projects on schools, medical facilities and low-income housing complexes that would show the surrounding community the potential of having solar arrays installed on their home or business.

One of the ambassador sites, Ridgeview High School in Dickenson County, was projected to save $1.7 million in energy bills over 25 years with a 350-kilowatt solar array.

“The workgroup established strong relationships with the property owners who all came to understand that solar energy made good business sense for their sites,” says Adam Wells, New Economy Program Manager in Appalachian Voices’ Norton, Va., office.

The roadmap is the result of phenomenal collaboration between people both part of and outside the Appalachian Voices team who want to accelerate our region’s transition to a just and sustainable economy.

“The creation of this roadmap was truly a team effort,” says Wells. “Big and special thanks to everyone who put their eyes, brains and imagination on the document and the process that created it.”

“Big ups go to some key folks outside of Appalachian Voices including Christine Gyovai and Emily Carlson of Dialogue + Design Associates, Joey James of Downstream Strategies, Blake Sutherland of Ecological Energy Systems, Becki Joyce of UVA-Wise and a very long list of people in Southwest Virginia who believe solar panels should go on their buildings.”

Putting the solar roadmap into action is going to require robust policy changes in the state legislature. Sign up for the Appalachian Voices email list for future updates on how you can tell your representatives that you want a solar economy in Virginia.

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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