The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia has entered a partnership with Secure Futures to provide commercial-scale solar installations in the coalfield region that are specifically designed to employ local workers.
The initiative, “Securing Solar For Southwest Virginia,” will provide affordable solar solutions for businesses, nonprofits and local governments in the seven-county region, while building local workforce skills and opportunities for well-paying jobs in the growing solar energy sector.
The announcement comes at a critical time in Southwest Virginia, which was already economically stressed from the coal industry’s decline prior to the current COVID-driven recession. The Solar Workgroup has boosted enthusiasm for solar energy in the coalfield region and laid the groundwork to grow solar development through public outreach, research, training and policy. Last year, eight Southwest Virginia communities achieved national recognition through SolSmart designation for their initiatives to encourage the growth of the local solar market.
The new solar partnership – an alliance of nonprofit, state government, educational and private sector entities that is unique in the Central Appalachia region – will improve upon these efforts. The partners are working to achieve significant goals over the next three years, including the construction of 10 MW of solar in the coalfield region by the end of 2023, and the creation of 15 new, full-time jobs in solar construction, sales and marketing, entrepreneurship and small business development.
Secure Futures will provide start-up funds for Lonesome Pine Solar and hire a Southwest-Virginia-based project coordinator. Additionally, Secure Futures is awarding a $50,000 grant to Mountain Empire Community College to fund solar installation apprenticeships and faculty mentoring. Lonesome Pine Solar will employ graduates of the college’s programs and provide the installation services for the partnership’s projects.
“I’m pleased and honored to join this innovative business model to establish local solar power businesses where none currently exist,” said Glen Skinner, president and manager of Lonesome Pine Solar.
“In partnership with Mountain Empire Community College, Lonesome Pine Solar hopes to help students move from the academic world to applying their knowledge and skills developed to become gainfully employed in the solar industry, a new economy for Southwest Virginia,” he adds.