The symbolism can’t get much better. In southern West Virginia, a region known for its coal, a new rooftop solar energy system has been installed in Williamson and is now producing clean energy.

It’s a region heavily invested in coal mining. But as unemployment figures have grown in recent years, so too has the opportunity to change the minds of West Virginians about how they get their energy. It’s not a coincidence that the rooftop solar energy system was built and installed by unemployed and underemployed coal miners and contractors.

The idea to install the rooftop solar energy system was first introduced a year ago by The Jobs Project, an organization that promotes renewable energy throughout Central Appalachia. The focus is not so much on solar power as a way to save money on utility bills or help the environment (though those two factors don’t hurt). Rather, the group promotes renewable energy as a way to create long-term, good paying jobs.

Nick Getzen, spokesman for The Jobs Project, explained exactly what the group is trying to do:

“This is the first sign for a lot of folks that this is real, and that it’s real technology, and they can have it in their communities. In no way are we against coal or trying to replace coal. There’s still going to be coal mining here. This is just something else to help the economy.”

There’s already proof that the group’s method of marketing solar to the region is working. According to Bloomberg, demand for solar energy in West Virginia is on the rise, and it has a lot to do with The Jobs Project teaming up with Mountain View Solar & Wind of Berkeley Springs roughly a year ago. The two organizations introduced a privately funded job-training program in which trainees earned $45 an hour.

Don’t expect West Virginia to turn into a solar energy leader overnight. But hopefully the state can make the transition on rooftop at a time.

source: getsolar