Berkeley Springs and Morgan County are the center of the West Virginia solar universe.
That’s because Mountain View Solar is based here.
Mountain View Solar CEO Mike McKechnie estimates that about fifty homes in Morgan County have solar panels. That’s more per capita than any other county in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“It’s the highest density of solar panels per capita not just in West Virginia, but in the mid-Atlantic states,” McKechnie told This Week in Morgan County with Russell Mokhiber. “We don’t have a huge population and we have large number of people who have adopted solar energy, much higher than the norm in most places.”
Of those fifty, how many have dropped their utility bills to close to zero dollars?
Close to thirty, McKechnie says.
This despite the fact that West Virginia is lagging behind neighboring states like Maryland in promoting solar energy. McKechnie says that Maryland has tens of thousands of solar industry workers, while West Virginia has fewer than 100 workers — many of them working for Mountain View Solar.
“If you take people who are unemployed or underemployed and you give them a new skill set, that’s popular thing for you do when people are unemployed, and you give them the opportunity to work, they will work,” McKechnie says. “But you have to give them the opportunity. If you don’t have the space to grow in the solar industry, the training is not going to do any good. You’ll train the folks and they’ll go to Maryland, Ohio, Washington, D.C., the Carolinas, all the states around us. In West Virginia and Virginia there isn’t a good climate for it. So there’s not that many jobs.”
“Maryland is one of the top ten best states in the nation for solar, three or four years in a row now because they have excellent leadership from the governor and the state legislature,” McKechnie says. “They have some 40,000 employees working in solar. West Virginia has less than 100. We have 20 of those people here in Berkeley Springs. Our company is about 20 people.”