Two workers in hard hats and yellow vests walk underneath solar panels at a massive solar installation in California.
Solar Panel Array: Laura Crane and a Fuller Star employee walking through the array of solar panels at the Fuller Star plant in Lancaster, California. © Dave Lauridsen

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Experts from Across Appalachia Gather to Discuss Opportunities for Solar on Mine Lands

The Nature Conservancy hosted a virtual panel of stakeholders from across Appalachia today to explore best practices and incentives for siting solar on mine lands and other previously impacted sites. The increasing demand for solar energy throughout the region and across the nation has many looking at the opportunity for siting solar facilities on former mine sites to avoid impacts to the region’s forests and ensure that coal mining communities benefit from the jobs that come with these projects and the growing solar marketplace.

The discussion was moderated by Thomas Minney, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, and the panel of experts with on-the-ground experience included Bill Murray of Dominion Energy, Marilyn Wrenn of Coalfield Development, Sun Tribe Development CEO Danny Van Clief and Brad Kreps from The Nature Conservancy in Virginia.

Danny Van Clief of Sun Tribe explained why his company is pursuing the development of solar projects on former mine sites like those previously announced with The Nature Conservancy in Southwest Virginia. “Leading companies are increasingly demanding low-cost renewable energy to power their operations. Utilizing low-impact properties like former surface mines presents an opportunity to build and operate solar projects on previously disturbed sites, while also putting underutilized land back into use.”

With the expanding demand for renewable energy in the United States, regions that have historically been tied to coal production like central Appalachia have been left to consider the future energy economy as coal mines have closed.  As major companies increasingly look to source their power from renewable sources, they are looking to central Appalachia as a resource due to its thousands of acres of former coal mines, a robust grid and relative proximity to population centers.

“We are pleased to collaborate with the Nature Conservancy on siting solar on abandoned mine sites,” said Bill Murray of Dominion Energy.  “This is good energy policy, good land use, and makes sense for our customers and our communities.”

The panel explained the importance of tax incentives for locating renewable projects in Appalachia and the idea of adding an additional incentive for placing solar projects directly on former mine sites.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.