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Rural Virginia is adding over a million new jobs by pivoting away from coal, investing in solar energy

"Until two years ago 'solar' was a dirty word around here. Not anymore."

Solar energy Virginia, Rural Virginia adding new jobs by investing in solar energy

Photo Credit: Getty Images

New legislation may soon help Virginians attain new well-paying jobs as well as access to clean power.

Virginia-based solar companies, like Secure Futures Solar, are about to hugely benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Congress's largest-ever climate package. A major portion of the $369 billion dedicated to helping our planet will go toward improving access to clean energy and creating more clean energy jobs in Virginia, as well as Appalachia in general. 

As many as 1.5 million clean jobs will be created because of this legislation, as reported by The Guardian. And clean jobs are good jobs, too; solar and wind power employees are paid about 21% more than the country's median salary, on average. 

Matt McFadden, a Virginia resident and business development lead at Secure Futures Solar, explained how momentum on solar power is growing in a region once dominated by coal.  

"Until two years ago 'solar' was a dirty word around here, not anymore," he told The Guardian. "I feel optimistic about the region for the first time in a long time."

Although the coal industry in rural Virginia is shrinking, the region's proud history of producing the nation's power doesn't have to end. Virginia's new solar companies are training young people and setting up apprenticeship programs for people to gain the skills necessary to supply our electricity.

In Virginia, the need for these solar jobs is huge, as coal production in the state is only 30% of what it was in the year 1990. Fortunately for the region, Appalachia is well-positioned to become a major clean energy hub because of its rail access and the existing plant infrastructure. 

This excellent combination explains why solar installation companies are now popping up all across the region, fitting schools, hospitals, government buildings, as well as businesses with solar arrays.

In the coming years, solar power will continue to get cheaper for people across the country. While this happens, more and more individuals will qualify for tax credits to install solar panels. Under the IRA, there is already a 30% solar tax credit, meaning that Virginia's solar companies will be able to grow quickly, employing more and more Appalachians.

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