The Mountain State has 1,479 “degraded” sites — mostly mountaintop removal mines and industry-contaminated “brownfields” — that could become solar panel farms generating electricity, according to research by Downstream Strategies of Morgantown.
West Virginia University engineering professor Dimitris Korakakis commented about the report:
“One of the strong points against solar energy is the area they take. If that area cannot be used in any other way, that is a good use for the land. The Department of Energy shows our region has a yearly average of sun 4.5 hours a day, versus 4.75 in Florida. ... We are not in a bad area to take advantage of sun hours available. ... If we can make 10 percent more energy, we will have 10 percent more income.”
Dr. Korakakis pointed out that Virginia already has installed 49 megawatts of solar panels, with 246 megawatts under construction and 3,000 under study. “By comparison, less than 4 megawatts of solar projects have been built in West Virginia.”
Appalachian Power has requested proposals for construction of 25 megawatts of solar facilities in this state. That’s a start. But West Virginia easily could develop 10 or 20 times more electricity from the free power of the sun, and generate jobs and learning opportunities along the way.
We hope state political and business leaders begin to tap this new source of prosperity for West Virginia.