MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Center on Climate Change hosted a webinar about the current state and future of solar energy at the West Virginia University Media Innovation Center Monday night. The hybrid webinar was called “Utility-Scale Solar – a Revolution in Progress.” Utility-scale solar is when a bunch of solar panels are installed on a large plot of land, as opposed to community solar, where people put solar panels on their houses. These larger types of projects are often initiated by corporations, specifically the tech industry.
There were three speakers at the event. David Feldman, Senior Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, had a national perspective of the solar industry. He noted that the sun is the strongest on the western side of the country, but that solar energy is price competitive enough to be efficient in the east as well. He also discussed recent advances in solar technology which make solar panels more efficient than before and predicts that technology advances will continue and only make solar energy cheaper.
Betsy Arlen, Director of Development and Real Estate for Sun Tribe Development, was able to speak to efforts to use solar energy on damaged land, for example, formerly mined lands. Part of a Virginia company, Arlen was also able to discuss how a bordering state is able to navigate clean energy standards.
Daniel Chiotos, Sales and Market Development Director at Mountain View Solar in Berkley Springs, West Virginia, brought a local perspective to the table. Chiotos explained how solar energy has a large upfront cost, but ends up being a cheap renewable energy option because there is no fuel cost; the fuel is the sun. He also brought up that although the panels are often installed by a traveling construction group, there are jobs in maintenance and unionization is often incentivized.
The West Virginia Center on Climate Change is a nonprofit based in Morgantown. According to their website, the organization is dedicated to helping West Virginians and their neighbors address the crisis of global warming and climate change. Their next webinar will be on July 27 and will be titled “‘Blue is the New Green’ – Labor Unions Tackle the Climate Crisis.”