We were pleased to see this week an announcement from unlikely partners The Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy with a plan to build a large solar farm on 1,200 acres at the site of the former Red Onion surface mine near Pound, Virginia.

The 50-megawatt solar farm will provide enough power for 12,500 homes and will bring the role of energy production back to the region, this time with a cleaner alternative to burning fossil fuels.

Closed surface mines are perfect sites for utility-scale solar power generation, because the land at these sites is often cleared of trees and leveled and is sometimes left unsuitable for residential development.

A new, clean energy purpose will help turn the negatives left by mountain removal and pit mining into positives.

Earlier this year, The Nature Conservancy announced two other solar projects on its managed lands in Southwest Virginia.

According to the nonprofit group, a big driver making the turn toward clean energy possible is support from elected officials, like the Virginia Clean Energy Act, enacted last year to encourage the state’s utilities to produce electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050.

We’ve seen similar public-private partnerships play out in Tennessee, too, where a 5-megawatt solar farm went live in 2019 and a 9-megawatt farm is under construction, both in Washington County.

It’s encouraging that our region is seizing the opportunity to take part in our nation’s energy future.

We hope the trend continues and gains additional support from public officials and private-sector leaders.

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