Solar power approval is growing in West Virginia
West Virginia is typically known for its long history of coal mining — 95 percent of the state’s energy came from coal plants last year. Due to the increasing environmental concerns of these plants and the declining number of mining jobs however, more West Virginians are becoming interested in what solar has to offer. Unfortunately, the high poverty rates of many communities in central Appalachia makes solar installations seem financially infeasible until recently.
In Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a library, backed with a partnership with Solar Holler, a social venture firm that invests in solar for nonprofits in the state, installed 12 solar panels on their roof, which should cost them $15,000, but in reality only cost $1.
Solar Holler uses crowd-funding — where participants donate the rebates they earn from installing an energy-saving control device on their water heaters instead of cash — to finance energy systems, according to the Christian Science Monitor. In order to do this, the library worked with a local environmental group, Sustainable Bolivar-Harpers Ferry, to go through the towns explaining the system, asking residents to install devices in order to give their rebates to the library. The whole campaign took two months. By then, the project had 55 supporters, allowing Solar Holler to pay for the panels and installation.
Supporters say that this process was much more intensive and practical than a conventional fundraiser as it did not have to rely on the people to give up cash in an area where many do not have extra laying around.
“Before, it was largely talked about how great solar would be,” said Danny Chiotos, an organizer for Sustainable Bolivar-Harpers Ferry. “Even though the power is piddly compared to a coal-fired power plant, they are real projects that are first steps to really grow solar power in West Virginia.”
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