VCEDA Awards Renewable Energy Funds to Southwest

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A ceremonial check presentation.
A ceremonial check representing the up to $244,126 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) for Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) to be used for workforce development and training in support of renewable and alternative energy, as well as the installation of a solar panel project on campus, was recently presented to the SWCC Educational Foundation. From left are Dr. Tommy Wright, SWCC president; Susan Lowe, SWCC vice president of institutional advancement; and executive director of SWCC’s educational foundation and Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel.

WARDELL, VA – DECEMBER 15, 2021 A ceremonial check representing the up to $244,126 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) for Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) to be used for workforce development and training in support of renewable and alternative energy, as well as the installation of a solar panel project on campus, was recently presented to the SWCC Educational Foundation. The funding marks one of the first awards from VCEDA’s newly created Renewable Energy Fund.

Included in the project is the installation of 10KW of solar panels in connection with a pending new student housing project on the SWCC campus. The solar panels will be installed on the housing units. 

“VCEDA is pleased to announce this funding for the SWCC renewable energy project,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “VCEDA created its renewable energy fund, utilizing funding from the Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit. The SWCC project proposes a mix of curriculum and hands-on experience, as well as a working solar panel installation on campus. We look forward to following the project as it develops.”

The SWCC Educational Foundation applied for the renewable funding as SWCC began planning to expand its program offerings in renewable and alternative energy. 

“I am thrilled that VCEDA approved this renewable energy grant,” said Dr. Tommy Wright, president of SWCC. “Skills and certifications in the alternative energy sector can be used here in our own backyards and across the nation. This grant is a huge step toward a bright future for the students of Southwest and our community.”

Currently, SWCC offers a Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Career Studies Certificate and an Electrical/Electronics Associate of Applied Science two-year degree program.  In order to expand these programs, SWCC began examining ways to expand its lab capacity to serve more students at one time, to provide students access to lab trainers that emulate and simulate the current equipment and emerging technology found in the industry, to integrate programs of study into an environment with real-world installations and opportunities to maintain and analyze the benefits of the installed alternative energy technologies and to build partnerships to have opportunities for students to complete internships, cooperative education and future employment. 

In order to accomplish this, SWCC identified the need for funds to provide training for instructors in industry-recognized certifications, solar equipment, tools and supplies. 

With the project calling for the installation of the solar panels, students involved in the training program will be able to see fully installed systems and assist maintenance crews with routine maintenance opportunities through internships and/or cooperative education opportunities, providing them with real-world experience to help them obtain employment upon graduation. 

“We are so pleased VCEDA has given us this opportunity to provide a hands-on lab for our students to learn more about solar energy, installation and repair,” said Susan Lowe, SWCC vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of SWCC’s educational foundation.

The VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund was created using funds received by VCEDA from the state’s Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit.  Because this tax credit was repealed by the General Assembly in 2021, future funding of the VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund will depend in part on whether this funding can be restored or replaced in some manner, according to Belcher.  An additional award by VCEDA from the Renewable Energy Fund is planned to be announced in the coming weeks.

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About Southwest Virginia Community College (Southwest): Established in 1967, Southwest Virginia Community College is a two-year institution of higher education serving primarily the residents of the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson (partial), Russell and Tazewell. Offering more than 80 programs of study, Southwest has served more than 109,000 students since opening. In addition to credit-based programs, Southwest offers fast-track training and industry recognized credentials. For more information, please visithttp://www.sw.edu 

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.