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Growing Solar in SW Virginia

Jimmy Davidson Appalachian Voices

A group of Communities in southwestern Virginia created a plan a couple of years ago to bring more solar energy to the region. And it appears to be working. 

Red tape is being reduced and free technical support for solar installation is being made available in Virginia’s coal country. The region is being recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy for its efforts to make it faster, easier and cheaper for residents and businesses to go solar.

“These communities have been working for a number of years with the SWVA Solar Working group, put together by a number of stake holders including Appalachian Voices, UVA at Wise, a bunch of communities in the region that participated,”   according to  James Schroll  with The Solar Foundation.  

The foundation runs a program called ‘SolSmart.’ It helps communities cut the soft costs for adding solar.  “Soft costs are those non-hardware costs that in the US represent two thirds of the cost of going solar,” Schroll explains.

It's the first time SolSmart has worked with communities in Virginia’ coal country.  “It just goes to show that it’s   not about solar vs coal. You can be a coal region and be a solar region," says Chelsea Barnes with Appalachian Voices. “To the communities here, solar energy really is a symbol of new of new opportunities demonstrating that our communities are part of the new energy economy.”

SolSmart has worked with several communities in Virginia including, Blacksburg, Roanoke, Charlottesville, and with other towns, big and small across the country.

Click here for more information about the SolSmart program

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