By Rance Garrison
An effort to spur more Appalachian solar development has supported 32 new projects since its launch in November 2021, according to the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund’s most recent report.
The Appalachian Solar Finance Fund has leveraged over $9 million in private and public investment for solar projects in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The fund promotes economic recovery in Central Appalachian communities that have been negatively impacted by the decline in the region’s coal economy by supporting solar projects that face challenges unique to Appalachia.
Thanks in part to funding from the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund and project developer Appalachian Renewable Power Systems, Good Works, Inc., a faith-based nonprofit in Athens, Ohio, is projected to save over $43,000 in electricity costs, which can now be channeled back into its programs. Good Works operates an auto, appliance, and food donation center and provides support services to people experiencing homelessness.
In Morgantown, West Virginia, the fund made transitioning to solar easy for Saint Paul Lutheran Church.
“The Solar Finance Fund grant really did serve as a catalyst for our congregation to go solar,” Pastor Tony Setley said. “The process has not been overly arduous; it has been very easy each and every step of the way. It really did make a huge difference for us.”
Public schools in Virginia’s Lee and Wise counties are also among the beneficiaries of the fund.
The Solar Finance Fund works with local businesses, nonprofit organizations and public institutions to offset pre-development and early-stage solar project costs, including roof repairs, engineering and design, auditing, inspections, grant writing and utility fees. The fund also provides repayable solar financing and credit enhancements through its partner, Invest Appalachia.
A thorough review of each project’s readiness and expected local impact ensures that each project is financially viable and benefits the local community. Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper, helps run the fund in partnership with the Central Appalachian Network and other organizations.
Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year returned the federal solar investment tax credit to its original value of 30% of total costs for projects built through 2033. It also established a payment mechanism that allows tax-exempt organizations to take advantage of the credit for the first time in its history.