U.S.-based of The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia has launched a new initiative to set up commercial-scale solar installations in the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia and offer renewable energy jobs to its local workers.
The Solar Workgroup comprises non-profit and community action agencies, colleges, state agencies, planning district commissions, citizens, and businesses seeking to develop a renewable energy industry cluster in the coalfield counties of Virginia.
In 2019, Virginia’s coal miners reported a near 8% fall in production to 12.0 million tons. Most of the coal is extracted from underground mines, and the region contributes 1.7% to the country’s total production.
Southwest Virginia was already economically stressed following a fall in output, which was aggravated by the recent Coronavirus-driven recession. The initiative will offer respite to local coal workers facing an uncertain future due to falling coal production.
It will offer them an option to shun a polluting sector that adds to global warming and shift to a sustainable greener industry segment.
The program ‘Securing Solar For Southwest Virginia’ aims to offer affordable solar solutions to businesses, non-profits, and local governments in the seven-county region, simultaneously building local workforce skills and opportunities for well-paying jobs in the growing solar energy sector.
The collaboration involves setting up 10 MW of solar power projects by 2023, and the creation of 15 new, full-time jobs in solar construction, sales and marketing, entrepreneurship, and small business development.
This is a creative model that can be applied globally and especially in India, as the world transitions from coal to solar and wind energy. Such initiatives could also reduce resistance towards renewable sources from the workers in the coal industry worried about job losses and their future.
Earlier, a report by the International Labour Organization said that globally, action to combat climate change could create 24 million new job opportunities by 2022, more than offsetting the six million job losses from traditional industries.
Coal India, the world’s largest producer, has firmed up plans of setting up 10 GW solar capacity through various partnership models at its collieries. The company plans to meet its entire requirement of power from renewable sources while producing fossil fuel. In 2020-21, Coal India’s production target was set at around 700 million tons.
Debjoy Sengupta is a Senior Assistant Editor at Mercom. Debjoy brings more than two decades of experience in frontline journalism, spending most of his career working for dailies like Business Standard and The Economic Times. He has reported on a vast array of sectors, including power and renewables. A graduate in business economics, Debjoy is an amateur 3D digital artist and a photographer. More articles from Debjoy Sengupta.