SolSmart awards Gold designation for Wise County, Virginia

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SolSmart has awarded the county the Gold designation for its work to make going solar faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses. The Virginia Department of Energy (Virginia Energy) partners with the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service to serve as a no-cost technical advisors with the program.  

“What a great step for Wise County as they prepare for more clean energy development, a boost in the local economy and contributing to established goals in the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. “We hope more localities will follow suit not only by preparing for renewable energy developments but by seeing these innovative repurposing opportunities on formerly mined land as Wise County and its partners did for their solar development at the Mineral Gap Data Center.” 

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Mineral Gap Data Center in the industrial park to commemorate the county’s new SolSmart Gold designation. The Wise County Industrial Development Authority received a $500,000 Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) grant from Virginia Energy for site preparation. This is the first solar project being constructed in the county, and it contributed toward the Gold designation.  

“Achievement of the SolSmart Gold designation is a prime example of how Wise County has committed to becoming a regional leader in alternative energy. We have a great opportunity to embrace our history of energy production while staying on the cutting edge of solar, wind and hydro generated power,” said Wise County Industrial Development Supervisor Brian Falin. “This award is an excellent opportunity for us to show our citizens, businesses, and industry that our goal is to provide the tools and support they need to invest in solar power.”

Wise County first received the SolSmart Silver designation in 2019 and has now leveled up to SolSmart Gold after additional accomplishments. Wise County obtained the SolSmart Gold designation by establishing a permit turnaround time of three days or less for small rooftop solar projects, establishing appointments for inspections, and creating a solar resource webpage for the county.  

“We are thrilled to congratulate Wise County for achieving the highest level of SolSmart designation,” said Theresa Perry, Program Director for SolSmart at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). “This achievement shows that Wise County is on the path to robust solar energy growth, as exemplified by the Mineral Gap Solar Project. We encourage other communities to join SolSmart and help both residents and businesses access clean, affordable energy from the sun.”

“Over the years Wise County has been a tremendous partner for us at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and now given our collective focus on improving communities through energy transition initiatives, we couldn’t be more pleased with this important designation,” said Executive Director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at UVA. “I am confident that this will serve as model for other localities across the Commonwealth to follow and am excited to see how this work will serve as a springboard for additional innovative forms of economic and energy development moving forward.“

SolSmart is led by the IREC and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Designees help solar companies greatly reduce the cost of installations and the cost passed on to the consumers. It also expands the solar option to more local homes and businesses. The end result it clean energy and local job creation.

Virginia communities interested in the Solsmart designation can find more information via the Virginia Energy website. All municipalities, counties and regional organizations are eligible to join the SolSmart program.

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