Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Former coal miners find work installing solar panels

As layoffs at Central Appalachian coal mines increasing, many  wonder what will become of former coal miners, and one story out of West Virginia may provide some answers. Former miners in the state's southern coalfield are working with a local company and a local nonprofit dedicated to creating alternative energy jobs to install rooftop solar panels, Vicki Smith of The Associated Press reports. (AP photo)

The Jobs Project, an organization trying to bring renewable-energy jobs to Kentucky and West Virginia, is working with solar energy company Mountain View Solar & Wind of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., to create a jobs-training program. Solar panels are assembled and installed by unemployed or underemployed coal miners. Jobs Project spokesman Nick Getzen told Smith some people were "skeptical" when the idea was first brought up about a year ago because nearly all the region's electricity comes from coal.

Demand for solar energy has been growing in West Virginia, Mountain View owner Mike McKechnie told Smith. His company is growing with the demand, and is working with Jobs Project trainees to assess seven new properties for solar installation at the time of Smith's article. "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," Getzen said. Smith writes that a 40 by 15-foot solar array being installed on a doctor's office in Williamson "is significant not for its size but for its location: It signals to an area long reliant on mining that there can be life beyond coal." (Read more)

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