Wise County Schools

A workforce running on clean energy

Wise County Schools represents the first “ambassador” project in a campaign known as Securing Solar for Southwest Virginia founded to install solar power, create well-paying clean energy jobs and establish a local solar power industry in the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia.

Solar power systems were installed at four elementary and middle school campuses under a 20-year PPA, which is expected to save the school division $7.5 million over the lifetime of the solar equipment by helping reduce demand for power from the local electric utility. 

Job training helps local workers qualify as certified solar installers through a partnership between Mountain Empire Community College and local vocational technology and high schools.The initiative, a partnership between Secure Solar Futures and the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia, will install five solar ambassador projects generating capacity of ten megawatts. It’s an “on-ramp” for local workers to the solar industry, the fastest-growing job creator in the United States today.

“It wasn’t about getting solar rooftops and connecting to the grid. It was about creating a workforce that can be sustainable here so we can continue to grow with solar and still be the energy capital of the world.”

Dr. Kris Westover, Mountain Empire Community College

Unlike other workforce development efforts that train workers but do not offer them any immediate employment, the Securing Solar program offers qualified candidates among newly trained solar installers the chance to go directly into work on live projects in the local area, an approach called “demand-pull.” It’s another way we can share emerging resources to bolster our local communities.

The Challenge

A region seeks an economic alternative to coal.

The Result

Solar arrays at 4 campuses will save $7.5 million while a workforce development program trains students as solar technicians.