EDITORIAL – SVCC’s solar training program is right move at right time

Published 2:38 pm Thursday, June 3, 2021

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The new short-term training program at Southside Virginia Community College to train workers to install solar panels is just the type of flexibility and ingenuity we need from our community college in this economy.

With solar farm projects before the planning commissions of almost every county in the area, it is clear this is an industry that is taking off in Southside Virginia. Add to that the home installations brought about as a way to save energy or provide a more reliable source of electricity and you have an industry that will need lots of trained workers over the next several years.

The program, announced last week as a collaboration between the community college and the Solar Hands-On Instructional Network of Excellence (SHINE), the program is designed to provide an avenue for unemployed or underemployed people to work in local communities across the state on solar projects.

With state mandates to meet objectives for renewable energy, power companies such as Dominion Energy are looking to solar installations to help them meet those objectives. SHINE estimates solar projects will create 31,000 jobs across the state. Just in this area, 4,000 jobs are expected to be created within the next few years.

Despite some citizen complaints about the scale of the projects or potential unsightliness of a acre after acre of solar panels, this is a train that is quickly picking up steam and is a big part of the state’s clean energy solution moving forward. With its average of between 210 to 218 days of sun per year, with a primarily rural landscape with farms or timberland that can be converted to solar farms, Southside Virginia is a prime spot for the production of solar power. But we need workers to help make it happen.

Instead of having solar specialists brought in from other areas to install these solar panels, training home-town specialists who can fully contribute to the local economy is optimal.

SVCC’s collaboration with SHINE to solve this problem, and help our workers find better jobs in the field of renewable energy, is a good move for Southside Virginia.