Solar Energy: Economic Opportunity in Appalachia
Above: Vincent Fanelli teaches a robotic workshop in a room powered by solar energy. The article below on ATD Fourth World’s work in Appalachia was published in the Dickenson Star on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Written by Jennifer Davis, staff writer.
“The goal is to introduce young people to new technology and show people how new technology works for them. There are challenges. We have to understand these challenges to meet them. Solar energy is here and this region has a right to be with the rest of the nation.” – Vincent Fannelli, ATD Fourth World Co-op
The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia is working to generate interest and identify opportunities for solar energy projects in the region.
At a recent community meeting on solar energy, members of the workgroup discussed how solar energy could provide economic growth for the region.
Lydia Graves with Appalachian Voices led a solar presentation and informed participants that manufacturing and installation of solar panels would be a great transition for displaced miners.
“There is not an enormous need for retraining. A lot of skills needed for solar are already being used in mining,” Graves stated.
Electrician, carpentry, and other skills can be easily transitioned from mining to renewable energies, such as solar.
Solar energy could create lasting jobs for the region from the initial stages of manufacturing to installation.
Matt Wasson, also with Appalachian Voices, explained how solar energy could provide ongoing job creation for decades.
“We could work with workforce development to place those jobs (solar jobs) locally, creating economic impact for the region,” Wasson explained.
According to a report released by the U.S Department of Energy in January 2017, solar energy employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, while gas, oil, and coal combined accounted for only 22 percent of the workforce. Renewable energies, such as solar are growing and providing jobs and economic growth for other parts of the country.
Vincent Fannelli of the Fourth World Co-op, located on Reedy Ridge provides solar power workshops for the community. [The ATD Fourth World team has worked for many years in the region.]
“The goal is to introduce young people to new technology and show people how new technology works for them. There are challenges. We have to understand these challenges to meet them. Solar energy is here and this region has a right to be with the rest of nation,” Fannelli stated.
The Solar Energy Workshop is in the initial stages of researching and identifying workforce development opportunities in solar energy for southwest Virginia. Workforce development is one of the main focus areas of the Solar Workgroup.