Press Release

Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia celebrates Wise Primary School installation

As solar panels go up at Wise school, the Solar Workgroup continues its efforts to develop renewable energy in Virginia’s coalfield counties

Note: This press release has been corrected to note that estimated savings are for the Wise County school system, not just Wise Primary School.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2022

CONTACT
Emma Kelly, New Economy Field Coordinator, (865) 585-4939, emma@appvoices.org
Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683, dan@appvoices.org

WISE, Virginia — On Tuesday, members of the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new rooftop solar installation at Wise Primary School. The ceremony celebrated another milestone in the installation of solar panels on 12 schools in Lee and Wise counties. Solar installations on Wise County schools are estimated to save the school system approximately $7 million to $8 million over the course of their lifespans. Speakers included representatives from participating solar companies GOT Electric and Secure Futures, two participants in a new solar apprenticeship program, and local education officials.

The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia is a group of nonprofits, community action agencies, colleges, state agencies, planning district commissions and other interested residents and businesses seeking to develop renewable energy in the seven coalfield counties of Southwest Virginia.

The Wise Primary School installation involved eight apprentices from the new Solar Workforce Accelerator program, a partnership among Mountain Empire Community College, Secure Futures Solar, GOT Electric and the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia.

Policy changes at the state and utility level helped to make these projects possible. These changes include raised limits on net metering, which allows utility customers to send more energy generated by their solar panels back to the grid to offset power costs, and expanded access to power purchase agreements that allow third-party owners to operate solar arrays on behalf of clients. Both the Wise and Lee county school projects are power purchase agreements.

“This system, and the ones like it on other schools in Wise and Lee counties are a real symbol of Southwest Virginia being an energy leader for generations to come,” said Matthew McFadden, project coordinator with Secure Futures Solar. “But the real praise needs to go to our apprentices. I’m so proud of these young people, who did the installation work and launched their careers in the solar and electric industry right here in Wise County.”

“We are here to celebrate the fruits of our labor — work that involved so many from the crew that installed the system, to the many community members and leaders who worked to build support for these projects, and the work done at the policy level to remove the barriers to solar development in Southwest Virginia,” said Adam Wells, regional director of community and economic development with Appalachian Voices. “It took years of all of us working together as a community around this common vision — that Southwest Virginia deserves to receive the benefits of solar — to achieve this success.”

“I want to see our young people be able to find meaningful employment that can support them and their families, and I want to see those opportunities here in Southwest Virginia,” said Greg Mullins, retired Wise County Schools superintendent. “These solar jobs that we have created through this program take us closer to that goal.”

Solar panels on Wise Primary School will help save approximately $7 million to $8 million in electricity costs over the lifespan of the project. Photo by J.M. Davidson

Adam Wells, regional director of community and economic development with Appalachian Voices, speaks during a celebration of the Wise Primary School solar installation. Photo by J.M. Davidson

Apprentices Anthony Hamilton and Mason Taylor talk about their experience installing solar on Wise Primary School. Photo by J.M. Davidson

Representatives from the school system, local and state government, solar companies and nonprofit organizations gather for the ribbon cutting. Photo by J.M. Davidson

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