First West Virginia Solar Congress a success

More than 75 solar supporters from across West Virginia gathered in Morgantown on Saturday to learn, share ideas, and plan how to expand solar in the state. The West Virginia University College of Law served as the venue for a productive day of solar discussion.

After a bit of networking over breakfast, Karan Ireland, WV SUN Program Director, kicked off the Congress with an introduction that briefly detailed the current state of solar in West Virginia. She discussed goals for the congress itself and introduced the agenda for the day’s events.

The day was broken into segments that included educational presentations before and after lunch, as well as a final solar forum. The forum enabled attendees to discuss big ideas about the future of solar in the state.

In the first of two sets of break-out sessions, Colin Williams of Mountain View Solar, Jim Kotcon of the West Virginia Sierra Club, and Karan all presented on topics that ranged from policy issues to advocacy. Colin discussed how third-party solar financing could work in West Virginia. Jim gave a history of renewable portfolio standards- and looked ahead to their future. Karan led a discussion on how solar supporters can more effectively lobby their elected officials and how citizens can be represented more robustly at the Public Service Commission.

In the second set of sessions, James van Nostrand of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development described how community solar projects work. Dan Conant of Solar Holler discussed how solar generation should be valued. And, Emmett Pepper of Energy Efficient West Virginia presented examples of partnerships that allow businesses to become more energy efficient.

The day’s sessions were capped by a forward-looking group discussion led by Anya Schoolman of Community Power Network. Participants discussed the current state of solar and renewable energy projects in West Virginia, and suggested ways to move the ball forward for solar and clean energy production in the state.

Topics included the implementation of community solar legislation and a state Renewable Portfolio Standard, and the need to find common ground across the political aisle. Consensus was reached on the need to “mainstream” the concept of solar energy in West Virginia, with high-profile solar projects such as PV arrays on sporting arenas and university buildings suggested as means to raise public awareness about solar.

After the final forum, congress attendees celebrated a long day of good conversation about solar with a well-deserved happy hour. Thanks to the great feedback that WV SUN received from participants, plans are already being made for next year’s Congress!