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Solar Coming to Virginia Coal Country


Six new solar projects could be coming to far southwestern Virginia.  It’s part of a push to diversify the economy in the region known as Virginia’s coal country.

The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia has been looking to bring solar power to the region since it was formed two years ago. Now, it’s first set of solar electric projects is on the table. 

Final negotiations are underway for Richmond based solar installation company NCI to lead up to 6 solar electricity projects to be built at a variety of sites there; the Wetlands Estonoa Learning Center and the University of Virginia-Wise Oxbow Center, both in the town of St. Paul in Wise County, the Lonesome Pine Industrial Center in the town of Wise, Norton Green Apartments in the city of Norton, Central High School in Wise County, and Ridgeview High School in Dickenson County.

If they all go through it would mean 1.5 megawatts of potential solar energy production.  And the goal is that more will follow.

In its proposal, NCI promised to hire local workers and offer training in solar installation. The Solar workgroup is a mix of people from local nonprofits, community and state agencies, universities, and just everyday interested citizens and businesses.

The plan is to bring on a locally rooted solar industry to diversify the economy in far southwestern Virginia, which once relied almost entirely on coal mining.

NCI teamed with Acorn Electrical Specialists (Piney Flats, Tenn.) and RockBridge Energy (Savannah, GA) to complete the Request for Proposal.

The workgroup is supported through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Sunshot Initiative, and is co-convened by Appalachian Voices, the UVA-Wise Office of Economic Development & Engagement, and People, Inc., with facilitation assistance from Dialogue + Design Associates.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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