NORTON, Va. — The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia on Wednesday announced a partnership with Secure Futures to provide commercial-scale solar installations in the coalfield region that will employ local workers, according to a news release.
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 release states.
The announcement was made on the first day of the annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum, where the idea for the Solar Workgroup began in 2015, the release states.
The partnership is an alliance of nonprofit, state government, educational and private sector entities that is working to achieve goals over the next three years, including construction of 10 megawatts of solar in the coalfield region by the end of 2023 and the creation of 15 full-time jobs in solar construction, sales and marketing, entrepreneurship and small business development.
“Secure Futures brings innovative solutions for solar customers and a track record of excellent customer service to the partnership,” said Chelsea Barnes, new economy program manager for Appalachian Voices, a co-convener of the work group. “We are excited to work with a team so dedicated to ensuring that the economic benefits of the solar industry come to Southwest Virginia.”
Tony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures, based in Staunton, Virginia, said to make sure the jobs come to Southwest Virginia, the partnership must work with the electric utilities — including Appalachian Power, Old Dominion Power and Powell Valley Electric Cooperative — to apply the standards and expectations of the 2019 Electric Co-op Net Metering legislation and the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. The key to the work will be solar power purchase agreements and net metering solutions for commercial-scale customers, he added.
Secure Futures will provide startup funds for Lonesome Pine Solar and hire a Southwest Virginia-based project coordinator, the release states. 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, according to the release.