© 2022
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

First Solar Plant to be Built on SWVA Abandoned Mine Land

Appalachian Voices

 A new solar electricity project will soon get underway in southwestern Virginia…the first ever to be built on abandoned mine land in the area....perhaps the country.  It marks a new day for energy in the region and, its creators hope, for the economy as well.


The Mineral Gap Data Centers in Wise, Virginia sits atop what was once a coal mine. Soon the massive building will be powered, in part, by a new solar array, funded by a half million dollar grant from the Federal government and administered by Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. Tarah Kesterson is with DMME. She says, "Our organization is all about cleaning up the environment, so any opportunity we have we have to improve the environment with an economic  development project is a really exciting time for us."

It's  a project that's been years in the making. The 65,000 square foot data center was planned and built with solar in mind; pre fitted to take solar electricity from an array on site, as soon as one became available.  Construction will soon begin on a 3.5 megawatt array by Sun Tribe Solar out of Charlottlesville.  The expected completion date is 2020.

The hope is that more projects like this first one will follow and that it will spur a new industry dedicated to the  manufacturing the full supply chain for building solar arrays on what were once working coal mines. Chelsea Barnes is with Appalachian Voices, one of the parters on the project. She says, “Solar on abandoned mine lands isn't necessarily as simple as solar on flat land because abandoned mine lands aren’t necessarily flat." People involved in these efforts invision a new industry emerging, tailored to innovations on how add solar to minelands left in various states of disrepair.“So there’s an opportunity for southwestern Virginia to be a leader in developing the components that are necessary for solar on abandoned mine lands.

In 1977, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (SMCRA) created a fund to help pay for cleanup of mine lands abandoned before that year. The Abandoned Mine Land  fund helps pay for reclamation and cleanup. It is financed by a tax on active coal mining companies and distributed to states with approved reclamation programs.


WHAT: $500,000 Grant Presentation to Wise County IDA for a regional economic development project. 

WHO: Congressman Morgan Griffith, Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Wise County leaders, Sun Tribe Solar, Mineral Gap Data Center and other distinguished guests. 

WHEN: Wednesday, July 31st, 10:00 a.m. 

WHERE: Mineral Gap Data Center, Lonesome Pine Regional Business and Technology Park.  

Join us as we kick off the first of ten Pilot Projects under our Abandoned Mine Land Program that promises economic development for the entire region. The check will be presented and details on how this grant will be spent and how it will improve the local economy will be revealed. 

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