$1.5 million for Research on Appalachian Renewable Energy

christine mahoney

Batten professor Christine Mahoney and her team secured a $1.5 million grant to study renewable energy and resilience in Appalachia, building on the Batten School’s growing Tadler Program on Impact Investing in Appalachia

It’s part of a pair of grants – $3 million in total, supporting UVA’s Grand Challenges Research Initiative – that the Environmental Institute is sending to a pair of communities 8,000 miles apart.

“Grand Challenges are meant to support the full scope of research, from basic research to team science to implementation and adoption by stakeholders,” said Megan Barnett, vice provost for academic initiatives. “The Climate Collaborative projects are a great illustration of this type of effort. They will generate discoveries, and also put those discoveries, and the tools to use them, in the hands of local communities.”

For the Appalachian project, UVA researchers will examine how the region – still adjusting to the diminishment of coal mining as an economic driver – might thrive if it embraces renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

In places like Russell County, tucked into the tip of Virginia’s southwest corner, the region is trying to map a future that isn’t reliant on fossil fuels. County leaders, with federal help, are reclaiming abandoned coal mines and other areas littered with coal detritus to create an industrial development site. And they are also working with the Environmental Institute to explore how a clean-energy revolution could bolster the region’s economy, improve the health of its residents and position Appalachia for a sustainable future.

“I understand the importance of building community resilience,” said Lou Wallace, co-founder of the community nonprofit St. Paul Tomorrow and the chair of the Russell County Board of Supervisors. “We are excited about this project and look forward to engaging with all of the strategic partners involved in this initiative.”

Shannon R. Blevins, vice chancellor at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, said places like Russell County could be on the cusp of a complete reimagining.

“The communities of Southwest Virginia have tremendous potential and opportunities ahead of them,” she said. “We look forward to working with community leaders and strategic partners to design strategies to build resiliency and address complex challenges that threaten the vibrancy of our communities.”

Garrett Hall at Sunset

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