Home Liberal Pockets of Coal Country Are Embracing Solar Power (Mother Jones)

Pockets of Coal Country Are Embracing Solar Power (Mother Jones)


Pockets of Coal Country Are Embracing Solar Power – By Hannah Wilson-Black (Mother Jones) / Nov 4, 2023

It’s not an easy sell for communities that have witnessed corporate exploitation firsthand.

This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

When Matt McFadden came of age in southwestern Virginia in the early 2000s, he wasn’t planning on working for a clean energy outfit. He grew up playing in a high school garage band, part of his increasingly Republican county’s small punk scene. But staring out at the photovoltaic panels gleaming atop his daughter’s elementary school in July—an array his company, Secure Solar Futures, installed—he was beaming with pride. In the midst of the Inflation Reduction Act’s rollout, McFadden and coal-rich Wise County have something many politically conservative areas from Texas to Ohio are struggling to create: real, and growing, support for solar.

McFadden and his firm have not accomplished this alone. In 2016, a coalition of businesses, nonprofits, colleges, local governments, and citizens launched the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia, which collaborates with Secure Solar Futures. It includes experts in every aspect of the green transition, from community organizers who tell neighbors about the benefits of solar to legal experts who propose legislation. The organization was heavily involved in the deal to install arrays on 12 schools in Lee and Wise counties and brought the idea to the attention of the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund, which, along with some state funding, financed part of the ongoing project.

Wise County is one of seven coal-producing counties in southwestern Virginia, and the rock has been pulled from the surrounding hills since 1880. In 2021, a panel that advises President Biden named the region the nation’s fourth most coal-dependent economy and said it should be prioritized when considering grants to remedy environmental damage and create union jobs. McFadden said provisions in the IRA that provide tax credits for projects in low-income and coal communities, coupled with those that reward using domestically manufactured components, allow his company to save up to 60 percent on an installation—savings that it passes on to customers.

CONTINUE > https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2023/11/appalachia-coal-country-solar-power-mining/


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