Norton, St. Paul, Wise County and Dickenson County are among eight Southwest Virginia communities that have achieved designation under the national SolSmart program for encouraging the growth of local solar energy markets.

The designation was announced July 25.

These communities took local action to reduce the time and expense required to install solar energy systems, according to a press release.

Wise County achieved SolSmart Silver designation. Norton, St. Paul and the counties of Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott and Tazewell achieved Bronze designation.

These are the first communities in the central Appalachian region of western Virginia, eastern Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky to have applied for and received the SolSmart designation.

At least seven large-scale solar projects totaling more than 4 megawatts are expected to begin construction by the end of the year — including at Ridgeview High School in Clintwood, Central High School in Wise County and the Lonesome Pine Technology Park in Wise County. The SolSmart designation will help facilitate additional solar projects in these communities at the residential, commercial and utility-scale levels.

SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

In addition, new funding from GO Virginia Region One will support a solar jobs, manufacturing and utility-scale investment playbook for Southwest Virginia, which will identify pathways for large-scale investment and job growth for solar manufacturing and utility-scale solar development. The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia will develop the playbook along with The Solar Foundation and other partners.

Additional information is available at www.swvasolar.org.

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