Who are West Virginia Legislators listening to when it comes to solar energy?

Chris Jackson Photography

Cory Chase, WV Solar United Neighbors’ Program Associate, addresses solar supporters at the Save Our Solar Rally at the West Virginia Capitol on January 27, 2024. Photo courtesy of West Virginians for Energy Freedom

By Sandra Fallon, WVEC President

Any way you slice it, West Virginians want community solar. 

The data are clear: nearly 70 percent of West Virginians support community solar. Yet solar-related bills did not make it onto a committee agenda this session.

It’s time for West Virginia legislators to hear their constituents’ calls to legalize community solar.

If providing energy freedom to citizens is not enough, passing community solar legislation will bring in renewable energy businesses on our border ready to invest their private dollars into our state to create jobs and expand solar. 

The world of electricity generation is changing from the old, centralized model, controlled by a few interests such as coal-fired, gas, nuclear and hydroelectric, to a more diverse energy economy that facilitates local production of electricity, including solar. 

Community solar allows individuals, businesses, and organizations to reduce their electric bills by subscribing to a “share” in a local solar panel array. Panels can be installed on a school, church, abandoned landfill or other location in or near the community. In West Virginia, legislation that addresses specific market and regulatory parameters must be in place before community solar programs can be implemented.

According to a survey released recently by our partners at Solar United Neighbors, the majority of West Virginians want access to solar power, whether solar panels are on their rooftops or in a community array. Details from the survey are provided below.

In fact, 65 percent of West Virginians surveyed said they’d be much less or somewhat less likely to re-elect that senator or delegate who voted to raise the cost of solar panel installation.  

Support for community solar is strong regardless of party affiliation. Fifty-five percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Independents and 83 percent of Democrats strongly or somewhat support community solar. You can read about the media coverage regarding the survey here or watch a press conference here.

Community solar offers numerous benefits: it creates jobs, adds resilience to the grid, reduces pollution and protects our health, avoids the cost of building extra infrastructure, attracts new businesses, stimulates the economy, and lowers energy bills for all customers. 

A recent study by West Virginians for Energy Freedom estimates that installing 200MW of community solar projects in the state would:

  • Save community solar subscribers $2.6$5.3 million per year (collectively) on their electric bills
  • Create more than 1,630 direct jobs and an additional related 2,500 jobs
  • Generate $386.3 million in new sales.

With all those benefits and all that constituent support, why did our legislators fail to pass community solar legislation? Looking forward, there’s a lot each of us can do to help ensure its passage in 2025:

  • Find out where your senators and delegates stand on community solar and why. You can find your legislators here.
  • Stay in touch and meet with your senators and delegates throughout the year. Share information about community solar, why you support it, and how it will benefit you and your community.
  • Support candidates who support community solar.
  • Join us at WVEC to help advocate for community solar and other legislation by filling out our Volunteer Survey.

West Virginians want to benefit from this energy transition! We encourage our representatives to hear their constituents and give West Virginians the energy freedom we deserve.

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