A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices


Solar and Wind Projects Take Off Across Appalachia

First Utility-Scale Solar Projects Proposed in West Virginia

By Brian Sewell

Solar Thin Films Inc., a New York-based company, recently announced a contract to develop up to 35 megawatts of solar capacity in West Virginia. Through an agreement with property owner Tri-State Solar, the solar developer plans to install three sites in Alderson, Crawley and Fayetteville.

Tri-State Solar, a West Virginia company formed by a former coal operator, is in the process of obtaining financing for the projects, and is preparing each property for the installation of the solar panels. According to a Solar Thin press release, the company is assisting Tri-State in finding a local utility to buy the electricity generated by the solar fields.

Solar Thin Films expects all three solar projects to be completed by fall 2014, with plans to begin installation before the end of 2013.

While solar power currently accounts for just one percent of electricity in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, installed solar capacity nationwide is projected to grow by 81 percent this year.

State-Level Policies Provide Vital Support to Wind and Solar Industries

By Kimber Ray

A report released in July by the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlights the role of state-level policies in supporting renewable energy. By examining the factors that influence whether or not a farm adopts wind or solar energy, the report aims to help states form effective renewable energy policies.

State characteristics related to using more renewable energy included an abundance of organic farmland, high rates of Internet connection, and expensive conventional electricity. Farmers located far away from the electric grid also favor renewable energy due to its convenience. Financial incentives such as rebates, grants and tax credits did not seem to lead to more renewable energy use.

The strongest predictor of whether or not a farm would have renewable energy was the existence of state “renewable energy targets.” These are mandatory goals established by the state government which require utility companies to generate a portion of their electricity from sources like wind or solar. Farmers have been especially vocal advocates of renewable energy targets because of the profit potential from leasing their rural land to renewable energy projects.

Dominion Power Wins Federal Offshore Wind Auction

By Nolen Nychay

Dominion Virginia Power won a September auction for a tract that experts estimate has 2,000-plus megawatts of wind-energy potential. The $1.6 million bid purchased 112,800 acres along Virginia’s coastline that, if developed, could power over 700,000 homes.

Dominion’s winning bid, however, may not be a victory for the wind industry, according to Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “For a cheap price, they’re able to bask in the glow of perceived greenness and prevent another company from grabbing the mantle of offshore wind,” Tidwell told The Washington Post.

Filed on August 30, a week before the utility won the auction, Dominion’s 15-year plan states that a two-turbine “demonstration project” is the only offshore wind installation currently intended for the newly acquired tract. “Actual construction of larger facilities must await technological advances that would reduce costs,” the utility’s plan states.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, despite more than four million megawatts of total offshore wind potential, the United States currently has installed only one 20-kilowatt turbine to date, enough to power just a few homes, off the coast of Maine.