Curtis Tate Published

Advocates Pitch Community Solar To State Lawmakers. Some Say No

The Scarborough Library on Shepherd University’s campus is home to the largest solar panel installation on a nonprofit in West Virginia. This photo shows half of its 189 panels.

Representatives from the solar power industry spoke to state lawmakers Monday about a community solar bill they’d like to see enacted.

Many states have the option of community solar, where residents can receive solar power without having to put panels on their rooftops.

Advocates of community solar in West Virginia told members of the Joint Energy Committee Monday that enabling it would lower utility bills and create jobs.

“So on day one, every subscriber to a community solar project is saving money and doing it at no risk to the customer,” said Richard Caperton, vice president of policy and market development at Arcadia, a community solar company. “They can leave it at any time.”

Caperton said West Virginia’s neighbors are embracing the concept.

“We’ve got very progressive states and we’ve got red states,” he said. And I look at our neighbors, just to the east in Virginia, where (Republican) Gov. (Glenn) Youngkin has made community solar and expanding community solar a part of his energy plan for the state.”

Adam Edelen, the founder and CEO of Edelen Renewables and the former auditor of Kentucky, said he’d be willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in community solar in West Virginia.

“Because the truth of the matter is, there’s nothing more compelling than a green energy project in a coal producing state,” he said.

Some lawmakers from coal-producing counties said they’d fight it.

“I’ve got a bag of pixie dust for you. It’s actually coal, OK,” said Republican Sen. Rupie Phillips of Logan County. “The sun don’t always shine. So what do you do? You’ve got so many coal-fired power plants have shut down because of this fairy tale story.”

Caperton said a variety of sources of power can support the grid.

“We are also seeing community solar projects with storage added to address that specific question,” he said.

Storage batteries that will soon be made here in West Virginia.

Dan Conant, founder and CEO of Solar Holler, told lawmakers that an individual subscriber could save $450 a year. He added that the bill introduced last year could create 12,000 jobs over 10 years.

Nancy Bruns, executive chair of the Dickinson Group, told lawmakers that even coal companies are investing in community solar projects in places where their mines are out of production.

That way, she said, they can avoid having a stranded asset.