W. Virginia Coal Country Gets Its Largest-Ever Clean Energy Project


Photo Credit: Andreas Demmelbauer via Flickr/CC BY

At the heart of philosophical debate of how we can best mobilize industry to deal with climate change lies one single dirty fuel source: coal. It provides the energy that powers the most massive economies on the planet, and contributes more than any other industrial source to the climate's warming. On a micro level, it also provides a lot of folks with their livelihoods. Abolishing the stuff presents a conundrum indeed. So it's nice to see even small progress being made that addresses both issues; and not just symbolically. Mountain View Solar & Wind just installed the largest renewable energy project in West Virginia's Southern Coalfields -- it's an 11 kW rooftop solar panel system, and unemployed coal miners worked to set it up.So, why is a tiny installation of rooftop solar panels in the middle of West Virginia noteworthy? Because it's the epitome of coal country -- exactly where ideological inroads need to be made before we'll be able to see large-scale climate action. And the first steps towards accomplishing this includes making a tangible demonstration that there's work, and life, beyond coal. Especially in local economies that have long been built up around mining the stuff.

To get the system installed, Mountain View collaborated with the Jobs Project to enlist out of work coal miners.The Jobs project is an interesting nonprofit that promotes sustainable energy markets in Central Appalachia. The collaboration was founded with the aim of providing more jobs to blue-collar communities that have been coping with economic woes even before the recession.

From the release:

"The time to generate economic activity from renewable energy has never been better, and West Virginia is offering increasingly attractive financial incentives for solar systems, said Eric Mathis, chief executive officer of The Jobs Project ... Mountain View Co-president Mike McKechnie underscored the importance of hiring and training workers in communities where solar systems are installed. "As the industry continues to grow, we're going to train more people. Mingo County is full of skilled electricians who used to work in the mines. I'm glad we can use those skills while paying Americans good wages locally -- up to $45 an hour for skilled electricians.
This laudable project, and the many others that are accomplished daily without such recognition, form the true building blocks of a greater clean energy strategy -- one that, with any luck, can begin to peel away the iron grip of the coal industry on so many economies.

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