Solar Workgroup announces six new solar projects in southwest Virginia

Installers set up solar panels to power a home in Central Virginia. (© Jackson Smith)

Southwest Virginia may be coal country, but solar power is coming its way, thanks to the efforts of the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia.

The group recently announced that it is in final negotiations with an installer to put in its first set of solar electric projects in the region that could generate a total of 1.5 megawatts of electricity.

The projects include solar installations at the Wetlands Estonoa Learning Center and the University of Virginia-Wise Oxbow Center in St. Paul, Va., Norton Green Apartments in Norton, Va., the Lonesome Pine Industrial Center in Wise, Va., and two high schools in Wise and Dickenson counties.

SELC attorneys helped provide information and legal analysis about various financing and billing options like net metering and power purchase agreements to help the Solar Workgroup put the project together.

This kind of grassroots development of clean energy has an enormous potential for speeding the transition to renewables,” said SELC Attorney Hannah Coman. “We’re confident these projects are just the beginning of what this group will accomplish.”

The Solar Workgroup is preparing a second request for proposals for additional installations that should be issued early next year.

The group is a coalition of nonprofit and community action agencies, state agencies, colleges, businesses, and citizens working to develop a renewable energy industry in southwest Virginia’s coalfield counties working to identify and analyze potential solar sites.

In 2017, the group released a report, “The Roadmap to Accelerate the Solar Industry in Far Southwest Virginia,” that examined financing options, workforce development opportunities, and other issues.

Richmond-based solar installation company NCI, which teamed with Acorn Electrical Specialists from Tennessee and Rockbridge Energy of Georgia, won the bid to build these first six projects. The company has promised to hire local workers and train them in solar installation.

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