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What does the future look like for energy production and job opportunities in southwest Virginia?

Generations of Appalachian families have earned a living from the grueling and often dangerous work of mining. Today some companies say they are mining more safely and responsibly, and some environmental stewards are working to repair many decades of damage caused by coal extraction. Others are working to help Southwest Virginia communities retool for a green energy future. We spoke with two people with expertise on these issues.  

Ryan McAllister, CEO of Secure Futures, a Staunton-based solar energy company. His firm produces commercial-scale solar development projects and recently launched an apprenticeship program for young people in southwest Virginia to prepare them to work in clean energy jobs. 

Daniel Kestner, the Economic Development and Program Manager at the Virginia Department of Energy, provides insights on the coal industry in Virginia as well as efforts for environmental stewardship. 

Virginia's coal mines in the Appalachian Mountains in the southwestern part of the state, are in Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise Counties. In 2021 Virginia's produced approximately 10.8 million short tons of coal.