In June, several counties and towns in Southwest Virginia received a technical assistance grant from the Department of Energy to help develop solar energy in the area. A technical advisor will work with local officials in these communities for six months to ensure the community can receive SolSmart designation, which signifies that the area has worked to make solar energy more accessible.
Lou Ann Wallace, SolSmart Project Sponsor, says, “We consider the SolSmart program an economic development initiative. By attaining SolSmart Designation we can show that Southwest Virginia is open for solar business.”
SolSmart supporters argue that the designation could encourage economic diversity by bringing in new industries that are interested in renewable energy.
A press release from Appalachian Voices, one of the members of the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia and the publisher of this newspaper, explains that the program is also designed to make solar energy more affordable and accessible “by engaging with utilities and installers to provide clear information for homeowners, as well as working with local government to establish financing mechanisms for low-income communities.” — By Sara Crouch