New solar facility opens outside Lexington

By  | 

ROCKBRIDGE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) “Solar, to me is the way of the future and we’re just so happy to be able to participate,” says BARC customer Dave Peters. Peters and his wife Sandra make up just one of the 212 households subscribed to get one-quarter of their electricity from the sun.

They were there with others to watch Governor Terry McAuliffe throw a switch crafted to look like Doc Brown’s Flux Capacitor and ceremonially start the flow of power.

“It’s actually very rewarding to have this idea in your mind and on paper," says Mike Keyser, CEO of BARC. "And then to see it blossom into a real thing on the ground in front of you has been a really cool experience.”

The field of solar panels – 1,750 of them -- in front of a renovated former school just outside Lexington is first step for the electric cooperative into solar. “We have room to triple it here just on the property alone.”

Which they plan to expand in the coming years.

“I think the demand is there," Keyser says. "So I would not be surprised to see in the coming years BARC has a considerably large investment in solar energy.”

The governor’s mind, however, was less on electricity and more on jobs.

“Obviously, renewable energy is important for the environment, but also we ought to be making these – manufacturing these solar panels here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These are the jobs of the 21st Century,” McAuliffe says.

And it’s those jobs – the governor says he knows of 36,000 high tech jobs waiting to be filled in the state – that he thinks is the key to solving Virginia’s budget problem. “If I could fill those 36,000 jobs today," he says, "That’s $36 billion in annual payroll. I could deal with the deficit with that.”

Back under the tent, Dave Peters is just happy that BARC took on the up front expense of installing the panels and maintaining them. “That’s not my real forte," he explains, "Maintaining something like that. Understanding how it works, and maintaining it.”