Alternative energy: Solar panel project coming to SWCC | Opinion

Southwest Virginia is not a region generally associated with green-energy projects, but that could soon be changing.

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) announced a $244,126 grant award earlier this month for a solar panel project on the campus of Southwest Virginia Community College, along with funding to be used for workforce development and training in support of renewable and alternative energy.

The grant was awarded to the Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) Educational Foundation. It was one of the first awards from VCEDA’s newly created Renewable Energy Fund.

The project will include the installation of 10KW of solar panels for a new student housing project on SWCC’s Wardell campus, which is located near Richlands in Tazewell County. The solar panels will go on the housing units, according to VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher.

“VCEDA created its renewable energy fund, utilizing funding from the Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit,” Belcher said. “The SWCC project proposes a mix of curriculum and hands-on experience, as well as a working solar panel installation on campus. We look forward to following the project as it develops.”

The SWCC Educational Foundation applied for the renewable funding after the college started planning to expand its program offerings in renewable and alternative energy.

Skills and certifications in the alternative energy sector can be used by students locally and across the nation, according to SWCC President Dr. Tommy Wright.

Currently, SWCC offers a Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Career Studies Certificate and an Electrical/Electronics Associate of Applied Science two-year degree program.

The new offerings, along with the solar panel project, will afford students attending SWCC more options in the emerging field of renewable and alternative energy.

It is another win for Southwest Virginia Community College, and a chance for students to get hands-on training in the green energy sector.

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