A solar energy project has received $500,000 and Appalachian Traditions Inc. has received $47,420 in federal funds through an abandoned mine land program.
The grants were awarded Wednesday in Wise County and Norton by Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy officials.
DMME received a total of $10 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury to help identify abandoned mine land sites that could be reclaimed to boost the economy of the southwest region.
The first large scale solar development in Southwest Virginia received a $500,000 grant from the Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program. The grant will fund site preparation for a solar system that will generate over three megawatts in clean energy to be used by the Mineral Gap Data Center.
Site preparation and system installation will create several jobs, and the use of renewable energy at the data center is expected to increase the center’s customer base, according to a press release. Ridding the site of nearby dangerous portals and clogged stream lands caused by historic coal mining will also improve overall water quality in the region.
“Mineral Gap Data Center is honored to be part of southwest Virginia’s renewable-energy future,” said Mineral Gap spokesperson Kathleen Fowler.
“Solar is more than just a power source — it’s an engine we’ll continue to use to create jobs, spur economic development and build a more sustainable future in Southwest Virginia and throughout the commonwealth,” said Devin Welch, chief strategy officer of Sun Tribe Solar.
COUNTRY CABIN II
The grant will be used to make Country Cabin II a year-round facility.
More than 6,000 people from different states and countries visit Country Cabin II to hear Appalachian music every year. It also serves as host to several regional and private events.
The grant will pay for improvements to an outdoor stage area. Doors, insulation and paneling for the interior, ceiling and floor will be installed to close in that area to ensure a comfortable venue in rainy or colder weather.
In 2005, DMME removed a dangerous highwall and landslide caused by historic mining at the site. The agency spent $127,000.
“Appalachian Traditions Inc. and Country Cabin are proud to accept the grant which will make it possible for us to add to our existing facility by installing doors, inside insulation and paneling on the walls and to seal the concrete floor,” said Appalachian Traditions Inc. President Bill Jones.
The projects were among 18 proposals submitted to DMME. The agency reviewed proposals for eligibility, then took them before an advisory council of people involved in local economic development. The council chose 10 projects to go to the federal Office of Surface Mining for approval.
The pilot program originated in a federal omnibus bill in 2017. DMME has received a total of $20 million for the projects over the last two years. The agency is expected to receive an additional $10 million for economic development projects to be selected in 2020.