Southwest Virginia seeks partners for solar development


Adam Wells, Regional Director of Community and Economic Development,, 276-679-1691

Norton, VA — The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia today released a Request for Information (RFI) for a “co-development concept” for commercial-scale solar projects throughout the seven-county coalfield region. The workgroup seeks to enter into an agreement to collaboratively identify, design and develop cost-effective, commercial-scale solar and solar-plus-storage installations informed by the RFI responses.

While the Covid-19 pandemic introduces uncertainties to the solar industry, the workgroup remains confident in its goal to use solar as an important economic stimulus in Southwest Virginia. The RFI approach is responsive to industry needs and adaptive to the current situation.

“Thanks to recent major state policy wins, Southwest Virginia is primed for solar energy development at a new and exciting level,” said Adam Wells, Regional Director of Community and Economic Development for Appalachian Voices, a co-convenor of the workgroup. “By focusing on critical community anchor institutions such as schools and county buildings, we are confident that our approach is responsive to the challenges ahead and will provide needed relief through cost savings while creating jobs in our region.”

The RFI solicits input from solar industry companies on the co-development concept outlined in the RFI, as well as to identify qualified individuals or entities for potential partnership. This RFI will inform the third iteration of the workgroup’s commercial-scale group purchase program, as the workgroup adapts its program offerings to the new policy and regulatory framework in Virginia. The goal of the eventual partnership(s) is to collaboratively develop solar and solar-plus-storage projects throughout the Southwest Virginia region with both the workgroup and the selected partner or partners sharing in the project development responsibilities.

The workgroup is facilitating this program as part of its mission to utilize the development of solar energy as an economic catalyst in the region, which includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties, and the City of Norton. The program is being launched after eight Southwest Virginia communities achieved designation under the national SolSmart program for taking steps to encourage the growth of local solar energy markets. These are the first communities in the Central Appalachian region to have applied for and received the SolSmart designation.

“The solar industry is one of the fastest growing in the nation and can help boost the economy in Southwest Virginia,” said Mark Moormans of People Incorporated, a co-convenor of the workgroup. “The Solar Workgroup has laid the groundwork for a solar energy boom in Southwest Virginia, and we are looking to build on our past successes to establish an innovative pathway for more solar economic development opportunities in the region.”

Questions regarding the RFI should be submitted by April 29. The workgroup will host an optional pre-submittal call for further information on May 1. Final responses to the RFI are due May 11. Following the closure of the RFI, the workgroup will refine the preliminary co-development concept based on input offered by respondents, and then begin the process to select one or more co-development partners.

Visit the workgroup’s website for more information.

The Solar Workgroup is comprised 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 was co-convened in 2016 by the UVA-Wise Office of Economic Development & Engagement, People Inc., and Appalachian Voices, with facilitation assistance from Dialogue + Design Associates.