RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Sixteen colleges in Virginia are increasing their solar capabilities.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe made the announcement Wednesday at Virginia Union University.
The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) member schools received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Sunshot Initiative for a Solar Market Pathways Grant.
The first four colleges to launch their solar projects are Virginia Union University, Washington and Lee University, Lynchburg College and Randolph-Macon College.
“Our students are very supportive and proud of our school being a leader in this solar initiative on campuses,” said Randolph-Macon College student body president Baxter Carter.
McAuliffe said projects like this are important for the environment and for jobs. He said, while Virginia is still considered a coal state, clean energy is the future.
There are about 77,000 clean energy jobs in Virginia compared to 1,076 coal jobs according to the governor.
“What I’m trying to do in communities that have lost coal and textile and furniture and tobacco is, if you want to create those jobs of the 21st century, this is the space you need to be in because it’s growing so rapidly,” he said.
Dr. Charlie Gay from the U.S. Department of Energy said the field will only continue to grow.
Gay said there are 260,000 jobs in the solar industry in the United States. That number goes up by about a thousand jobs a week.
Many of them are in installation and project development.
“Those jobs are on rooftops here in America. They don’t get exported anywhere else,” said Gay.
The participating schools will have the technology on campus for students pursuing the careers.
“Beyond making our facilities more energy efficient, these solar installations also will serve as a ‘living classroom’ for our students,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth.
The other 12 schools are expected to sign their contracts in the coming month.
The following CICV member schools are participating in the grant program:
Appalachian School of Law
Eastern Mennonite University
Emory and Henry College
Mary Baldwin University
Virginia Union University
Washington and Lee University