Fourth annual W.Va. Solar Congress coming to Charleston

  • By Clint Thomas Metro staff
  • Apr 11, 2019

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The fourth annual West Virginia Solar Congress will meet from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in downtown Charleston.

The West Virginia Solar Congress is a free, public conference designed for solar energy supporters from around the Mountain State to learn and share information. Along with a series of presentations and policy topics regarding solar technology, the event will conclude with a participatory open forum for all attendees to discuss priorities and opportunities in West Virginia.

The Solar Congress agenda includes:

9:30-10 a.m.: Registration. Breakfast will be provided.

10-10:20 a.m.: Opening remarks by Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia Program Director Autumn Long.

10:30-11:20 a.m.: The first session of breakout presentations, which includes:

• Option 1: Introduction to Solar PV

Participants will be told about the basics of solar PV technology and ways to reduce their energy costs by going solar. They will also have an opportunity to join the Charleston-Huntington Solar Co-op and become a member of Solar United Neighbors. Long will oversee this program.

“Our solar co-ops are essentially local buying clubs that folks can join to go solar together with our assistance and guidance,” Long explained last week. “As a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people go solar, join together and fight for their energy rights, our co-ops are free to join, with no obligation to go solar.”

Long said the Charleston-Huntington Solar Co-op will be open to residents and businesses throughout the Kanawha Valley and Metro Valley region.

“We provide a series of free public education opportunities throughout the co-op area,” she said, “and once at least two dozen people have joined the group, we solicit bids from local solar installers to service the co-op. Co-op members select a single installer to service everyone in the group, so everyone receives the same competitive pricing and high-quality equipment options. We are there every step of the way to serve as a consumer advocate and help our co-op members navigate the entire process of going solar.”

• Option 2: Capturing the Solar Dollar: Sustainable economic development opportunities in West Virginia from investments in solar.

From locally owned business and employment opportunities to large-scale corporate investment in the state, participants will learn about the economic development opportunities solar can provide for West Virginians. Joey James of Downstream Strategies and Hannah Vargason of Natural Capital Investment Fund will be the session leaders.

11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: The second session of breakout presentations, which includes:

• Option 1: Electric Vehicles and Driving on Sunshine: Turning light into light speed

Electric cars and solar-powered homes have arrived in West Virginia. West Virginia Electric Auto Association President Marty Weirick will lead this program, joined by Robert Fernatt, a solar homeowner, electric-vehicle driver and advisory board member of the Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia, will discuss the technologies.

• Option 2: Solar Policy Priorities for West Virginia

James Van Nostrand, director of the West Virginia University College of Law Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, will conduct this program. He will discuss pro-solar policies from around the nation that could be beneficial in West Virginia, including the West Virginians for Energy Freedom campaign to legalize power purchase agreements for on-site, renewable energy-generation facilities in the state. Long will also take part in the program.

12:30-1:20 p.m.: Lunch and informal networking. During this time, a solar trivia game will be played and electric vehicles will be on display outside the Coliseum and Convention Center’s main entrance.

1:30-2:20 p.m.: The third session of breakout presentations will get underway, including:

• Option 1: Energy Efficiency for the Home and Business

Energy efficiency in conjunction with renewable energy generation will compound savings, can minimize upfront system costs and will improve the comfort of the home. In this presentation, Xavier Walter, co-director of Energy Efficient West Virginia, will explain how energy efficiency bridges the gap between energy production and consumption while ensuring adequate indoor air quality and reduced reliance on the power grid.

• Option 2: Solar + Storage

Residential and commercial energy storage systems are becoming more common and affordable. Participants will learn how battery storage works and how it interacts with the energy produced from solar. Long will conduct this program.

2:30-3 p.m.: Solar owner panel discussion

Local solar owners will share their experiences of going solar at their homes. Speakers will include Paul Hayes of Marmet, Robin Blakeman of Huntington, Robert Fernatt of Falling Waters and Steve Wellons of Charleston.

Hayes said he became involved with the Solar United Neighbors co-op in Kanawha County because, “I wanted to be able to predict my costs for my energy use and that was one way to do. If I have solar, a certain percentage of my bill will be taken care of because of the power I get from the sun.”

Hayes said the installation of 36 solar panels on the hillside behind his Marmet home was completed three-and-a-half years ago.

“When they built my project, I said I didn’t want a power bill.”

He said his panels provide approximately 70 percent of his overall energy use. “The reason for that is twofold,” he said. “When you get solar panels, they told me, you often pay more attention to how much energy you’re using and you’re able to decrease the amount, because you’re more mindful of what you’re using. Secondly, if you have it for 100 percent of your energy, that increases the price significantly.”

Hayes said he has witnessed a surge in solar as a more common energy source in the Mountain State. “I see a lot more solar in West Virginia than in some states in the West even,” he said. “A lot of people are curious about it, and some people have made the step towards it. I just encourage people to understand when the price of their energy goes up, my prices are not increasing.”

3-3:30 p.m.: Open forum, facilitated by Long.

4:30-6 p.m.: Post-Congress Happy Hour.

To RSVP for the Solar Congress or read more about the gathering and the organization, visit

Marietta City Council expanding solar energy

Apr 10, 2019

Janelle Patterson

Special to The News and Sentinel

MARIETTA – Marietta City Council is moving forward on a new power purchase agreement with Pickering Energy Solutions to add solar power to another city building this summer.

Chip Pickering, founder of the energy company, explained to council’s Lands, Buildings and Parks Committee Tuesday that the proposed agreement to utilize the roof of the streets department garage would offset the power usage at the city site by 85 percent.

The contract proposed follows the parameters set forth in the current power purchase agreement between the city and Pickering for use of the Marietta Municipal Court roof.

“That’s been in place for about a year,” said City Engineer Joe Tucker. “And originally the estimate was that the savings to the city in energy costs would be about $800 in the first year.”

Dave Hendrickson, also with the city’s engineering department, explained that the savings to date for the city on the municipal court building is $743.41.

The proposed new power purchase agreement follows the lines of that court agreement, selling power to the city for that building at a 10 percent lower rate than the going rate of AEP.

“For the streets maintenance garage, we put a new roof on there in February of 2016 for $174,955,” explained Tucker. “Pickering Energy Solutions is prepared to place 132 solar PV panels at 350 watts on that new roof to save the city $550 annually and it will surprisingly support 80 percent of our energy needs at that facility.”

Pickering’s Kerri Dunn, project manager, explained that the use of clips to adhere the new panels to the roof would not invalidate the city’s warranty on the roof.

All council members voiced support for the proposed 20-year agreement with an option to renew for another five years after 2039.

The $10,010 purchase from Recreonics will add a six-piece floating attraction to the city’s pool this summer, according to Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

Pickering to speak at League of Women Voters meeting

Apr 7, 2019

From staff reports

PARKERSBURG — A local authority on solar energy will speak to the League of Women Voters of Wood County at 6 p.m. April 22 in the Parkersburg City Council chambers.

Chip Pickering started Pickering Energy Solutions, a West Virginia company that installs, owns and maintains solar photovoltaic power systems in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The meeting is open to the public.

“As citizens of the world we must protect our planet from the physical, economic and public health effects of climate change while also providing pathways to economic prosperity,” Charmaine Dotson, president of the League of Women Voters of Wood County, said.

Pickering is the chief executive officer of Pickering Associates, an architectural and engineering firm in Parkersburg, and vice president of Davis, Pickering and Co., an electrical contracting firm in Marietta.

He is responsible for development, training and construction quality programs for Davis Pickering.

He is a professional engineer, a project management professional and has a LEED certification for building design and construction. Pickering also is a certified photovoltaic installer through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

Pickering has worked on several projects in Haiti and Africa.

Pickering’s company mission is to encourage, develop and facilitate the use of solar and other forms of renewable energy. Pickering Energy Solutions brings individuals and organizations that would like to incorporate renewable energy into their lives together with investors that are looking to invest in renewable energy technologies.

“The preservation of the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the earth’s ecosystem is essential for maximum protection of public health and the environment. The interrelationships of air, water and land resources should be recognized in designing environmental safeguards. The federal government should have the major role in setting standards for environmental protection and pollution control,” Jane Burdette, a public relations chairman of the League, said.

Climate documentary to be presented at Parkersburg forum

Apr 7, 2019

From staff reports

PARKERSBURG — “Paris to Pittsburgh,” a National Geographic documentary, will be shown by Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action at its Third Thursday public forum 7 p.m. April 18 at the First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave.

Third Thursday programs are open to the public and free.

“Paris to Pittsburgh” is about individuals battling the most severe threats of climate change in their own backyards. Set against the national debate over the United States’ energy future and the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement, the film discusses what’s at stake for communities around the country and the inspiring ways Americans are responding, the organization said.

The film was produced by the Academy Award and Emmy-winning production company RadicalMedia with Bloomberg Philanthropies. Directed by Emmy Award-winner Sidney Beaumont and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio, “Paris to Pittsburgh” spotlights the cities, states, businesses and citizens taking action and explores the social and economic impacts of climate change-fueled disasters, from America’s heartland to the nation’s coastlines.

Local leaders and citizens present stories behind climate-related recovery and resiliency, as well as innovative efforts to reduce carbon emissions, including boomtowns formerly reliant on coal such as Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, led by Mayor Bill Peduto, is a city committed to energy efficiency and one of the many examples of bold economic and climate leadership in the film, the organization said. Other locations featured in the film include Puerto Rico, California, Iowa, Florida and New Jersey.

“From innovative ways to improve our food supply chain through Fleet Farming, parking lots shaded by solar paneled roofs to passionate college students making an impact in sustainable energy jobs, this documentary provides a hopeful roadmap for the future,” Geoff Daniels, the head of unscripted programming for National Geographic, said.

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action said it focuses on raising awareness of the science and danger of climate change. It is affiliated with and is the Parkersburg chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and a Science Booster Club for the National Center for Science Education.

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

Apr 5, 2019

It was with grateful appreciation that I learned that the U.S. House of Representatives had added to their docket H.R. Bill 763; The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Bill 763 offers for the newly elected Congress a replacement for the earlier bill first offered for the previous congress — a “revenue neutral” legislative initiative for addressing the human causes for global climate change. There are two notable features about this bill.

First, it is a “fee” rather than a tax. The fee is paid by the producers of those products which generate the CO2 emissions which cause most of the climate damage. What makes this a fee rather than a tax is that all of the money raised is by law required to be refunded as a dividend in equal shares to each U.S. citizen. The government doesn’t decide how to spend the money – you do. Clearly, the fee will raise prices of CO2 generating products. However, economists estimate that two-thirds of the U.S. population will receive dividends larger than their added costs. Who typically uses the most CO2 generating products? Those who can afford them. This proposal collects from the wasteful to distribute it equally to all. The riots in France over a proposed carbon tax are an example of “taxed enough already – TEA applied to Climate Change.” I agree with the feeling that taxes are high, and raising them to pay for a climate change solution is unwarranted. We’re already paying public money to repair climate change damage from storms and wildfires. Why pay triple; for the cause, the consequence and the solution?

Second, no money is withdrawn from the economy. How would you spend your dividend? You’d spend it on things important to you; such as, education, health care, housing and basic living expenses. These industries don’t generate much CO2, and would flourish. Those industries which do generate CO2 would be incentivized for efficiency, productivity, innovation, investment and substitution, as would consumers also. A border adjustment fee for imports would “plug loopholes” plus incentivize global application of this same approach.

The Yale Center for Environmental Communication polling data, Aug 7, 2018, indicates that 77 percent of Americans and 76 percent of Ohioans support regulation of CO2 as a pollutant. The economic impact of this proposal is projected by economists to be both economically positive and job creating. So, I encourage you to write your congressional representatives asking for their support of H.R. 763.

Dave Ballantyne

Member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action


Roads vs. coal

Mar 31, 2019

Thank God for those potholes, they remind us all we are in the Mountain State. Maybe if Gov. Justice would take charge of fixing them instead of complaining about previous administrations we could improve them. Instead we have a special road bond fund that has $0 funds. However, at least the coal barons got a boost. West Virginia is paying THEM $60,000 for each new job.

I guess the coal industry doesn’t need good roads. I wonder how many other businesses choose to NOT locate in West Virginia due to poor infrastructure.

So, as we move forward, let’s consider these things. First, has the legislature’s thrashing of the environmental regulations two years ago helped us to live “Wild and Wonderful?” Second, how low do we go decimating our children’s future to entice jobs that aren’t going to show up?

Finally, how about some common sense returning to the Legislature? Let’s make West Virginia a bastion of green jobs, not keep pretending a dying coal industry is magically going to save us all.

I’ve always known America IS great.

I don’t need a bombast and a hat to tell me.

Donald Lynch


Solar installer certification course offered locally

Mar 6, 2019

Author, builder and teacher Jay Warmke will be in Marietta March 18-22 teaching Solar Installer Certification at the Unitarian Universalist Church. He has just released two books, “When the BioMass Hits the Wind Turbine” and “Solar Installer and Design Level II.”

Besides a series of podcasts he has created with Annie Warmke, he has radio programs on WOUB on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and on WGRN Columbus Ohio on Fridays at 11:30 a.m. Jay is a pioneer in the solar energy industry and has received a variety of awards for his work. For more information about him or his classes, contact Annie Warmke at 740-674-4300 or

Jay has quietly become a pioneer not only in the solar energy industry, but also in the world of sustainable living. He and Annie built a 2,200 sq. ft. Earthship, a comfortable home made out of reused and repurposed materials including tires, cans and bottles, the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River. He came to Southeast Ohio after a career in the telecommunications industry and has written magazine columns and authored more then 12 books related to sustainable living.

For the past 15 years he has lived at Blue Rock Station, a sustainable living center and 40-acre farm located south of Philo, OH. The facility has 16 buildings made from reused and repurposed materials and has been the host to more then 35,000 visitors over the past decade. Blue Rock Station hosts open day tours, workshops on sustainable living including building a tiny house plus goat college, and an internship program.

Manchin says

Manchin says climate change must be on “front burner” — but is it even on his stovetop? April Keating and Eric Engle, Gas Committee co-Chairs

Senator Joe Manchin III, senior senator from West Virginia, now finds himself as the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the senator had this to say when leaving the Independent Oil and Gas Association Winter Meeting in Charleston: “We’re going to surprise a lot of people, because climate change has to be on the front burner. Everything we do has to be done with climate change in consideration.” While this is certainly refreshing to hear, talk is cheap. What will the senator actually do to back this up? That’s a tough question to answer. The senator has passionately backed oil and gas development in our state and throughout Appalachia, including pipelines, ethane cracker plants, and an Appalachian Storage Hub that will store liquid natural gas (LNG), the feedstock for plastic, underground in old salt caverns between WV and OH, making us the new “cancer alley.” He backs extensive petrochemicals development throughout Appalachia in a world drowning in plastic. According to the Huffington Post, “By 2030, the U.S. is on track to produce 60 percent of the world’s new oil and gas supply, an expansion at least four times larger than in any other country. By 2050, the country’s newly tapped reserves are projected to spew 120 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. That would make it nearly impossible to keep global warming within the 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages, beyond which United Nations scientists forecast climate change to be catastrophic, with upward of $54 trillion in damages.” Carbon dioxide is not even the most worrisome greenhouse gas when it comes to oil and gas development. Natural gas consists primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more efficient at trapping heat over a 20-year period than CO2. Methane is released in large quantities at all stages of oil and gas development, from extraction to shipping to storage to use. Gas extraction is toxic from cradle to grave. We need an immediate phase out of all fossil fuels. Will Sen. Manchin support this? Well, there’s one concrete measure he can support for starters. The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763) has been reintroduced this session in the U.S. House, and no doubt will be introduced in the Senate as well. This is bipartisan legislation that places an increasing price on carbon at the source but refunds the costs of the carbon tax 100 percent to American households in the form of a dividend to help lower- and middle-income Americans afford the price increases. The legislation is expected to reduce emissions by 40 percent in the first 12 years, and 90 percent by 2050. Senator Manchin should put his full support as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee behind the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act. He could even be the senator who reintroduces it with bipartisan support in the Senate. There are also legislative initiatives at the state level that Sen. Manchin could throw his support behind. One is The Modern Jobs (MOJO) Act (HB 2589) introduced by Del. Evan Hansen, and the other is SB 409, a bill permitting third-party ownership of renewable and alternative generating facilities, being advocated for by the West Virginians for Energy Freedom coalition ( Our state’s senior senator can make the difference he claims he wants to make, and surprise us all, but it’s going to take more than words. Call or write Sen. Manchin today and insist that he take tangible steps toward preserving our future and protecting the citizens of West Virginia, the U.S., and the world!

Solar needs to be allowed to compete

It’s time for West Virginia to focus on how to grow our economy and encourage entrepreneurship with free markets, sensible regulations and fair competition. Renewable energy stands to benefit from such policy changes.

Distributed renewable energy resources like solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass offer increasingly affordable alternatives to the outdated model of centralized utility monopolies. More West Virginia families, businesses, communities and institutions could benefit from these affordable energy options — if our elected officials create a policy environment that encourages choice, competition and diversification within our evolving energy system.

Such a policy environment will benefit our state’s economy by attracting large employers and investments, encouraging entrepreneurship, expanding our state and local tax bases and creating good new jobs in rapidly growing economic sectors. We know this to be true because we have worked together to grow southern West Virginia’s first ever solar installation company: Solar Holler. Our mission is to make solar the most affordable choice for our neighbors across Appalachia. Since 2013, Solar Holler has created 30 new full-time jobs and attracted millions of dollars in new investment to our state. Renewable energy is a growing market with real job creation. Now, our state’s regulations and bureaucratic barriers need to catch up with innovations driven by private markets so the renewable energy industry can realize its full potential.

Removing barriers to renewable energy developments is important for consumers, too. Electricity rate hikes are a growing concern for West Virginia’s businesses, families and communities. Once among the lowest in the country, Appalachia’s electricity rates have increased at a faster rate than any other region in the nation over the past 10 years. At the same time, our energy system is undergoing rapid changes thanks to breathtaking technological breakthroughs and competitive market forces.

Allowing third-party financing for renewable and alternative energy resources is one tangible step our elected officials can take to make West Virginia a more competitive and attractive place to live and do business. Third-party financing models such as power purchase agreements are common and powerful ways to finance renewable energy projects. This type of contract allows a private developer to install, own and operate a distributed energy system on a host customer’s property. The customer purchases the system’s electric output to get reliable power while protecting themselves from the ever-increasing prices utilities charge.

Legal in at least 26 states, including Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio, power purchase agreements are widely used by commercial businesses and tax-exempt institutions such as schools, churches and municipalities. Crucially for nonprofits and local governments, power purchase agreements allow a tax-paying private developer to use the 30 percent federal energy investment tax credit and pass along those savings to the customer in the form of lowered energy costs.

Yet, when Solar Holler attempted to do the first power purchase agreement in our state — with our congregation at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church — we were shut down by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, which argued that only the incumbent utilities should be allowed to sell power to the church, or anywhere in their service territories. It was a blatant stifling of competition. If we want to maintain our legacy of powering America, we need free and fair competition.

Legalizing third-party financing for distributed energy resources will help consumers protect themselves against future rate hikes. It will create good new local jobs, encourage entrepreneurship and investment, and send a clear signal to large employers and investors that West Virginia is an amazing place to live and build a business. That’s why we joined West Virginians for Energy Freedom, a coalition of our neighbors, organizations in our community, local businesses and officials who believe West Virginians should have the right to take control of where our energy comes from. Visit to find out more and join the fight for energy freedom in West Virginia.

Dan Conant is founder and CEO of Solar Holler. Brandon Dennison is founder and CEO of Coalfield Development.

Green New Deal isn’t just a possibility

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey introduced a nonbinding resolution on Feb. 7 calling for a Green New Deal. It would be an overhaul of our energy, transportation, agricultural and infrastructural systems moving us off fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy. It would also move us to maximum energy efficiency and sustainable agriculture and development. Not only is this proposal feasible, but by mid-century we have got to see it through if we hope to leave a habitable planet for posterity.

Not surprisingly, there is already much weeping and gnashing of teeth concerning this proposal from the political right. They say this proposal and all it entails will spend us into oblivion and destroy places like Appalachia, long reliant on extractive industries who exploit our resources and our labor. This from the same Republicans who in December 2017 passed a multi-trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations, financiers and the wealthiest households and individuals in the country; the same Republicans (and some Democrats) who happily hand out billions annually in taxpayer dollars for fossil fuels and commercial agricultural subsidies. Our entire congressional delegation in West Virginia was even supportive of using a Department of Energy emergency maneuver to bailout noncompetitive coal and nuclear plants on the backs of ratepayers and taxpayers. So much for the free market.

Speaking of the market, there are two important prerequisites to making a Green New Deal work. One is a carbon tax. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act that has been introduced in the U.S. House (H.R. 763) would place a rising cost on carbon at the source and return all revenue to the American people 100 percent in the form of a dividend. It is crucial legislation with bipartisan sponsorship and support. There is no reason, ideological or otherwise, why West Virginia’s congressional delegation should not support it. It is a market-based solution that does not grow government. If we do not account for the true social costs of carbon, we cannot move forward.

The other prerequisite to a Green New Deal is fossil fuels divestment and socially responsible investment. Coal, oil (and petroleum-based products like plastics and other petrochemicals), gas and nuclear are leaving investors with stranded assets, and this will only get worse. These are not the future and any good investor or asset manager looks at the writing on the wall. The costs of climate change to insurers and underwriters are staggering and set to get much worse. It certainly doesn’t behoove them to maintain the status quo.

But these are only cost analyses, what about jobs and economic fairness and equality? This is where the Green New Deal is so important. President Franklin Roosevelt once spoke of a Second Bill of Rights, an economic Bill of Rights. Writing for Jacobin, with republication in The Guardian recently, Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Thea Riofancos wrote that “Freedom has to mean something more than the capitalist’s freedom to invest or the consumer’s freedom to buy.” Expanding on FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, the authors wrote of five important freedoms that a Green New Deal could guarantee: Freedom from fear (in this case freedoms such as guaranteed jobs and homes as we suffer weather extremes and relocations from climate change and reorganization of industry); Freedom from toil (in this case harmful work or useless toil); Freedom to move (in this case humane immigration policies and non-militarized borders); Freedom from domination (in this case, as one example, the letting go of fantasies of achieving freedom by the domination of nature and recognizing ecological necessities); and Freedom to live (in this case freedom from want and to want — i.e. to have all basic needs met and to live with unfettered access to knowledge, leisure and adventure).

A Green New Deal is only a threat to those seeking to maintain a status quo of massive wealth and income inequality, power and dominion concentrated in the hands of the few and wanton disregard for the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic global climate change and the urgent threats it poses. A Green New Deal is not some “green dream” of the progressive left, it is a serious proposal containing solutions to the potentially existential havoc we have wrought on our shared planet, our only home in the cosmos. Ignore the noise and let us spare ourselves calamity and salvage life for future generations. Let your congresspersons and senators know you support a Green New Deal.

Eric Engle is chairman

of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.