news by location
‘This is the future’: rural Virginia pivots from coal to green jobs
"This is a great opportunity to learn, great pay, and maybe I’ll be able to stay here in the mountains with my family if solar takes off.”
How an ex-coalmining town is turning to ecotourism to rebuild its economy
Dante, a Virginia town, is seeking to transform itself into a hub of ecotourism by nurturing the environment around it, and bring some of the natural beauty back to the community
Abandoned mine funding critical to Appalachian infrastructure
A new study by a West Virginia-based research firm shows the importance of the abandoned mine land reclamation funding that helps clean up areas where surface and underground mining has occurred over the last four decades.
The Sun is Shining on Southwest Virginia’s growing solar industry
Appalachian Voices’ Front Porch Blog takes a look at the news around the development of the solar sector in Southwest Virginia, as the area’s transition from coal continues.
Virginia Coal Equipment Manufacturer Finds New Market in Clean Energy
With the support of community leaders, the family business is weathering coal’s decline by pivoting to solar storage—and creating jobs in the process.
Report: Dominion Energy Must Start Planning Now for Coal Plant Transition
A new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis highlights the local economic risks of abrupt closure of the utility’s power plant in Wise County, Virginia.
Opinion: Envisioning A New Day in Southwest Virginia
“We’ve taken great pride in powering America for generations, and we believe that federal commitments and investment will bring our new vision to fruition. This new way of thinking and working will once again bring employment opportunities back to the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.”
As Virginia Moves Toward 100% Clean Energy, Advocates Work to Ensure Benefits Reach Coal Communities
Policy hurdles prevent schools and other public institutions in Southwest Virginia from adopting solar energy and capturing its economic benefits.
Anthony Flaccavento Applies Lessons from the Tobacco Transition to the Coal Transition
For Flaccavento, the National Economic Transition platform provides the investment needed for Appalachian communities to navigate a second economic transition.
Editorial: A Better Idea for Virginia’s Controversial Coal Tax Credits
“Coal companies won’t like this idea — they’ll want to keep those tax credits. But why should Southwest Virginia tie its fate to an industry that has clearly not made the region wealthy when there’s an opportunity to create an entirely new economy?”
Virginia commission clears path to solar transition
The Virginia State Corporation Commission has cut some of the red tape that has delayed initiatives to encourage investment in solar energy. The move is a “gamechanger,” one advocate said.
An Appalachian plan to repurpose 253,000 acres of former mine sites for utility-scale solar buildout
Tracts in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia are among those recently bought up by the Nature Conservancy under a program to draw developers and stimulate job creation and local economic activity.
Virginia law pushes state toward carbon-free economy
Enactment of new electricity-generation standards will close most coal plants in the state by 2025 and rejigger the economy to create “thousands of clean energy jobs,” one state senator said.
Virginia joins the offshore wind-industry race
The state is vying aggressively for taking the lead in the buildout of thousands of megawatts of offshore wind-power production. A turbine blade factory may also be in the works.
Virginia enacts Clean Economy Act in hopes of getting up to speed
“The cost of doing nothing is staggering,” said the sponsor. “Yes, this is a big bill, but it does some very important things that Virginia is far, far behind in.”
Virginia lawmakers consider two practical steps toward a new-energy economy
A bill before the Legislature would set aside $35 million for renewable-energy projects on old mine sites. A separate proposal calls for phasing out fossil-fuel-fired power and supporting worker-transition initiatives.
A game-changing play in Virginia coastal waters
The state is “poised to benefit from the wide-ranging economic benefits” of a 2.64-gigawatt offshore wind initiative that would provide 10 times more generation capacity than the biggest coal plants.
Decline of coal in eastern Virginia is pushing a new generation to relocate
The demographics of Buchanan County are changing as younger workers seek careers elsewhere: “The only age group that has grown in the last two decades is the population over 55.”
Virginia election results signal another state-level policy shift
A power change in the General Assembly sets the stage for a transition like that seen recently in several states embracing new plans for how electricity is generated.
Study: More economic potential in Virginia solar buildout than typically acknowledged
Under “business as usual” plans by major utilities, utility-scale solar isn’t being taken seriously enough but could create thousands of jobs annually if it is pursued to its full potential.
Editorial: Virginia’s new energy plan overlooks hardest-hit communities
“Those localities need a new economy, but nothing in the governor’s executive order helps them create one. … You’d think social justice would demand some affirmative action on their behalf.”
After tobacco and textiles, a Virginia town sees economic-development potential in solar
“Companies nowadays, especially tech companies, are looking at communities that have more renewable energy in their portfolio,” said Danville City Manager Ken Larking.
Costco, Kroger, Target and Walmart among corporate giants looking to disrupt traditional power-generation model in Virginia
Some of the biggest retailers in the company are calling for new deals that would allow them to break Dominion Energy’s hold on the state’s electricity market. Legislators may be receptive.
Virginia utility-scale solar project will power high-security data center
As part of the Abandoned Mines Land Project in southwestern Virginia, work will begin this fall on a utility-scale solar array to power the high-security, 65,000-square-foot Mineral Gap Data Center.
Commentary: Building a bigger destination economy in western Virginia
“Among the burgeoning hotels, outfitters, breweries and restaurants of St. Paul, one can see a glimpse of a possible future as local residents build a new economy upon the remains of the old.”
Appalachian utility president: ‘A continued shift from coal’
Appalachian Power, which has about a million customers in Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, is embracing renewable energy production. “That means a continued shift from coal,” says the company’s president.
Survey: Majority of Americans prefer renewable energy
A poll by Consumer Reports finds that most Americans would prefer to get their electricity from renewable sources. Of note in the survey results: Residents of four states with a higher-than-average use of coal—Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia—are in line with the majority.
Former coal-field town sees Main Street revitalization in visitor industry
Tazewell, Ky., has hit on a post-coal tourism-development niche by promoting a scenic highway that draws a growing number of visitors. An estimated 60,000 “motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts” came through the town last year, an almost fourfold increase since 2013. The traffic has allowed new retail businesses to open along a main street that was all but abandoned a generation ago.
Two ‘zombie’ coal plants in Virginia typify an industry in decline
Two aging power plants that are being kept on life support in Virginia typify the condition of much of the U.S. coal-fired electricity generation fleet. Yorktown 1 and 2, operated by Dominion Energy, are “limping along in the Virginia heat” as Dominion, which has six million customers, joins other major utility companies in turning to cleaner, more affordable options: “In this, it is no different than other utilities around the country that are similarly turning to cleaner energy sources and shutting down coal power.”
Utility trends don’t bode very well for fossil-fuel-fired electricity
Two huge interstate electricity companies—Vista Energy and Dominion Energy—are at the forefront of an industry retooling that favors cheap renewable forms of generation over natural gas and coal. The trend embodies “a bearish view of fossil-fuel energy” as solar and wind farms gain market share nationally, “curbing orders for new plants and forcing the closure of old ones.”
A Coming Boom Seen in Virginia’s Emerging Solar Industry
The Solar Energy Industries Association sees a nascent solar industry in Virginia tripling in generation capacity over the next five years and powering more than 200,000 homes. Growth is spurred by declining installation costs and demand from consumers. “Some industry officials and clean-energy advocates expect even-sharper growth during that timeframe and say the solar expansion almost certainly will accelerate across Virginia in the decades beyond,” says a newspaper report.
Survey: Swing-State Voters Favor Transition to Renewable Electricity Generation
A new survey finds that most voters in five swing states—Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—favor state policies mandating 100 percent reliance on renewable energy for electricity generation. The survey results “serve as a potential warning to candidates to support renewable-energy policies or face possible voter backlash.”
Op-Ed: Sensible Change Comes to Virginia
Virginia is on the right path as it adopts stronger energy-efficiency standards, a broader commitment to solar and wind, and regulatory changes that encourage electricity-generation modernization. “Whether you’re an environmentalist concerned about the effects of climate change, a business trying to keep operating costs low or a consumer advocate looking out for low-income customers, this is a historic win that will generate economic and environmental benefits for years to come,” writes the author.
Op-Ed: Three Trends That Suggest No Coal Comeback
Three distinct trends continue to work against the U.S. coal industry. One is a rapid rise of black lung among miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, where old coal seams that are increasingly difficult to tap are creating new health hazards, according to research by Stone Mountain Health Services. Two is national momentum toward retirement of the aging fleet of U.S. coal-fired electricity generation stations. Three is a Trump administration plan that is being crafted to bail out failing coal plants. “What seems clear from all three cases is that the coal industry isn’t coming back,” says the author.
Op-Ed: Virginia Can Capitalize on New Energy Opportunities
Virginia lags its neighboring states in embracing transformational market forces and developing a modern energy economy. “We already know what the status quo costs our communities. But we haven’t seen what happens when we invest in local advanced energy businesses and jobs.”
Op-Ed: Next Governor Can Modernize Virginia’s Energy Economy
The “sleeping giant” of Virginia’s economy is the “advanced energy” sector, which employees more than 75,000 people in the energy efficiency sector—about as many as work in grocery stores—and 4,300 in the burgeoning solar industry, almost twice the number who work coal, oil, and natural gas.