Virginia has long been coal country, but the solar power industry has been increasing its foothold in the Commonwealth over the last few years. And now, Michael Pope reports that a significant shift is taking place.
Virginia now has more jobs in the solar industry than the coal industry. Numbers from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy show a 40% drop in the number of people working in the coal industry over the last five years. Henry Childress with the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance says coal produces more energy with fewer employees.
“Coal will produce more jobs I think in the long term. But we’ve had to cut back because everyone feels like it’s not worth it to use coal anymore. And I feel that there will be a time when we will have to turn back to coal to meet the demand.”
For now, though, the solar industry has more employees in Virginia than the coal industry. That’s a dramatic shift for a state that has a long history with coal. Alexander Winn at the Solar Foundation says he’s hopeful some of those jobs might move from coal to solar.
“There are efforts to retrain some coal workers, and hopefully those will continue to grow as solar becomes an increasingly large employment sector in the Virginia energy industry.”
Most solar energy jobs are in installation, construction and manufacturing. Numbers from the Solar Foundation show that the industry grew by about 65% over the last year alone.