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The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a technical assistance grant to a far Southwest Virginia solar energy initiative.

DOE’s SolSmart designation program recognizes communities that have taken measures toward solar energy readiness. The program is designed to address solar energy reforms at the county level.

Tazewell, Russell, Scott, Lee, Wise and Dickenson counties, along with the town of St. Paul and city of Norton, make up the Southwest Virginia Cohort. All have moved to seek SolSmart recognition with help from the National Association of Counties and the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia.

The localities learned in June that DOE would award the grant, according to a press release from Appalachian Voices. It provides a technical advisor who will work with host communities for six months to achieve SolSmart designation and tailor the program to each locality’s unique needs.

“We consider the SolSmart program an economic development initiative,” said Lou Ann Wallace, who serves as the project sponsor and serves on the Russell County board of advisors. “By attaining SolSmart designation, we can show that Southwest Virginia is “open for solar business.’ Our region has to stay competitive in order to attract modern industries to Southwest Virginia.”

SolSmart will work with Southwest Virginia communities in coming weeks to identify focus areas for the technical advisor.

The effort to jump-start a local solar industry is led by the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia. The workgroup is co-convened by the University of Virginia’s College at Wise Office of Economic Development & Engagement, People Incorporated and Appalachian Voices, with facilitation assistance from Dialogue + Design Associates.

For more information, contact Adam Wells, adam@appvoices.org, or 276/679-1691, or Lou Ann Wallace at lou.wallace@russellcountyva.us.



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