Recently the folks at West Virginia SUN announced West Virginia's own Solar Holler was chosen as the installer for the Huntington-area WV SUN Solar Co-op - a group of more than 20 Huntington area homeowners who have decided to go solar.

As we're following up with co-op members, making new friends, visiting sites and structuring proposals, we've been elated to find educated, motivated homeowners, business owners and farmers. This is a direct result of the educational work WV SUN has done already, implementing 14 co-ops in West Virginia since 2014. Their work centers right around us now, with co-ops in the Mid-Ohio valley, Charleston and Huntington.

If you've ever wondered what goes into a solar system, how the finances work out or how the laws in West Virginia support solar, WV SUN and Solar Holler will host the final community info session for the Huntington Solar Co-op from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 15, in the lobby of the Frederick Building, 940 4th Ave, Huntington, as part of the Create Huntington Chat 'n' Chew. This will be a chance to meet your neighbors who are going solar and get all those questions rolling around in the back of your head answered.

There's a lot of hype about solar right now, but a closer inspection of the markets, the industry and trends reveal that it's more than just hype - the impacts are real, and they're making waves across global markets. The solar industry is bolstering job growth nationwide and offering those of us with an independent streak the opportunity to own our own energy. Solar Holler is working hard to ensure that West Virginians - the state that has powered the nation for more than a hundred years - reap the economic and financial benefits so many around the country have felt already.

Nowhere is this boost more desperately needed or deeply deserved than right here in West Virginia. Coal, and coal-associated industries are shedding jobs at an alarming rate, and the "why" is far less important than the "what": What will these folks do to feed their families? What will young people do when they graduate?

Well, there is a burgeoning industry that West Virginia stands the chance to leap into on a whole new level, and we've partnered with organizations like Coalfield Development to ensure folks displaced from the mines and mine-related industries are retrained in a 21st century industry. West Virginia has always been an energy producing state, and there is no reason that should change, we just have to mine the sun.

Going solar offers a unique opportunity to the residents of West Virginia and the Ohio River valley: It's a chance to participate in a growing market and bring diversification to the economy and energy landscape. Better yet, solar offers the opportunity for you to own your own energy and to save money on your energy bills.

Working together with friends and neighbors across Huntington, we're building a new industry that keeps money in our state and puts our people back to work. We really hope you can join us in the effort.

J. Deacon Stone is the outreach director for Solar Holler. Email him at Deacon@SolarHoller.com.

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