Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia Celebrates Installation of Wise Elementary School > Appalachian Voices

As Solar Panels Go Up at Wise School, Solar Workgroup Continues Efforts to Expand Renewable Energy in Virginia’s Coal Counties

October 12, 2022

Emma Kelly, New Economy Field Coordinator, (865) 585-4939, [email protected]
Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683, [email protected]

WISE, Va. – On Tuesday, members of the Southwest Virginia Solar Task Force gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new solar installation on the roof of Wise Elementary School. The ceremony celebrated another milestone in the installation of solar panels at 12 schools in Lee and Wise counties. It is estimated that the installation on Wise Primary will save the school around $7-8 million over its lifetime. Speakers included representatives from participating solar companies GOT Electric and Secure Futures, two participants in a new solar learning program, and local education officials.

The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia is a group of nonprofit organizations, community action agencies, universities, state agencies, district planning commissions, and other interested residents and businesses seeking to develop renewable energy in the seven coal counties of southwestern Virginia.

The Wise Elementary School installation involved eight apprentices from the new Solar Workforce Accelerator program, a partnership between Mountain Empire Community College, Secure Futures Solar, GOT Electric and the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia.

Policy changes at the state and utility levels have helped make these projects possible. These changes include increased limits on net metering, which allow utility customers to send more energy generated by their solar panels back to the grid to offset electricity costs, and expanded access to power purchase agreements. electricity that allow third-party owners to operate solar panels on behalf of customers. The Wise and Lee county school projects are both power purchase agreements.

“This system, and those like it in other schools in Wise and Lee counties, are a true symbol of Southwest Virginia as an energy leader for generations to come,” said Matthew McFadden, Project Coordinator with Secure Futures Solar. “But the real praise has to go to our apprentices. I am so proud of these young people, who did the installation work and launched their careers in the solar and electric industry right here in Wise County.

“We are here to celebrate the fruits of our labor – work that has involved so many people, from the team that installed the system, to the many community members and leaders who have worked to build support for these projects, and the work being done at the policy level to remove barriers to solar development in Southwest Virginia,” said Adam Wells, Regional Director of Community and Economic Development at Appalachian Voices. “It’s taken us years of working together as a community around this shared vision — that Southwest Virginia deserves the benefits of solar power — to achieve this success.”

“I want to see our young people be able to find meaningful employment that can support them and their families, and I want to see those opportunities here in Southwest Virginia,” said retired superintendent Greg Mullins. schools in Wise County. “These solar jobs we have created through this program bring us closer to that goal.”

The solar panels at Wise Elementary School will save approximately $7-8 million in electricity costs over the life of the project. Photo by JM Davidson

Adam Wells, regional director of community and economic development at Appalachian Voices, speaks during a celebration of the Wise Elementary School solar installation. Photo by JM Davidson

Apprentices Anthony Hamilton and Mason Taylor talk about their experience installing solar panels at Wise Elementary School. Photo by JM Davidson

Representatives from the school system, local and state government, solar companies, and nonprofit organizations gather for the ribbon cutting. Photo by JM Davidson

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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