© 2023
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

First Ever Large Scale Solar Project for SWVA


The long- sought goal to transition from coal to solar power in southwestern Virginia is being met, thanks to federal funding to build the first solar power plant in the region.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Congressman Morgan Griffith have announced ten Southwestern Virginia Economic Development Projects are getting pilot grants from the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. They’re all aimed at remediating land damaged by coal mining, as part of DMME’s Abandoned Mind Lands Project. One of them is a half million dollar grant to build the first solar electricity array in southwestern Virginia.

The huge data center in Wise County, known as Mineral Gap, handles a lot of vital government and high security information and draws a lot of power from the grid. That’s why it’s long been interested in the added security of a solar back-up for the 65,000-square-­foot facility on 22 acres in Wise County, land that was once a coal mine.

“Solar on coal mines has a really good ring to it.  And it’s something we’ve all been talking about for a long time, but no one has been able to figure out how to make it work.

Until now.

Adam Wells is with Appalachian Voices, and part of the coalition that proposed solar for the Mineral Gap Data Center in Wise County. He seeing this first project get going, could jump-start the solar industry in Virginia coal country. If this project is ultimately approved, he thinks it could serve as a ‘proof of concept,’ and give comfort to potential solar developers sitting on the sidelines.

“I know there are other solar developers who are looking at this, at this time, as well.  So, I think it would really open the gates and we’d see a pretty big wave of solar development on mine land.”

Sun Tribe Solar, out of Charlottesville, would build the solar array for the Mineral Gap Data Center. It’s expected to produce almost 3.5 megawatts of electricity. The half million-dollar grant also includes bringing the land around the center back to the way it was before coal was mined, in and near, the site in the 1950s.

Work on it is set to begin in the fall of 2019.

The project is slated to produce almost 3.5 megawatts of electricity, create 26 new jobs and bring more than a million dollars to the region’s economy over the next 35 years.

These are the projects, recommedend for grants, pending final approval:




Wise County

Appalachian Homestead – a unique community offering property rights through community based sustainable farming


City of Norton

Country Cabin II – a music venue along the Crooked Road will make improvements to become a year-round site


Russell County

Dante Community Redevelopment – construction of a mountain bike and ATV trail



Buchanan County

Ecotourism in Nature’s Wonderland – a scenic vista to view the elk and other wildlife


Tazewell County

Pocahontas Exhibition Mine – enhancing the museum experience and creating a visitor tram stop for rides through the mine exhibit


City of  Norton

Project Intersection – an industrial site development aimed at attracting new manufacturing businesses


Wise County

Solar Value – a large solar project, providing renewable energy to an industrial park tenant, the Mineral Gap Data Center


Dickenson County

Splashdam Waterline Extension – a public water expansion project will improve the quality of life for rural residents affected by historic mining


Russell County

Project Reclaim – an industrial site development aimed at recruiting new business


Wise County

Enhancing the Mountain View Trail System – will improve ATV trail between St. Paul and Coeburn


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