Appalshop unveils largest net-metered renewable energy system in Eastern Kentucky

In the heart of the coalfields, Appalshop, Inc. unveiled the largest net-metered renewable energy system in Eastern Kentucky with a ribbon cutting on June 7th.

The project is a groundbreaking example of what’s possible in Appalachia, a region uniquely vulnerable to rising energy costs and political lobbying against renewable energy.

With 192 panels incorporated into the roof of a freestanding “solar pavilion” on Appalshop’s grounds, and another 42 solar panels on the roof of its Boone building across the street, the net-metered system will generate more than 12 houses’ worth of electricity, more than any other renewable system in the region.

Together, the panels will produce 60-70 percent of Appalshop’s monthly energy usage (some months, over 100 percent) and save an additional $100,000 over the panels’ initial cost.

Appalshop is further broadening its impact through the Letcher County Culture Hub, a network of community groups creating economic and cultural opportunity, to install three additional solar projects with HOMES, Inc, Hemphill Community Center and King’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

Collectively, these projects illustrate the potential for solar in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky that historically produced power for the nation, but received it decades later than the rest of the country. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall, it’s especially poignant to unveil Appalshop’s solar pavilion 50 years after its founding in 1969, when young people chose not to wait to see what was possible in the region, but to build it themselves.

Appalshop today is home to the largest single body of creative work on Appalachia in the world, and its new solar pavilion will provide a permanent stage for its annual Seedtime on the Cumberland festival as well as a place to honor special friend of Appalshop Jim Webb, who spearheaded its construction before his death last fall. 

The June 7th ribbon cutting — led by Mayor James Craft, Rep. Angie Hatton (D), Appalshop Executive Director Alex Gibson, and community partners — publicly thanked local architect Bill Richardson, who designed the solar pavilion; local contractor Appalachian Construction Services, who built it; Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), who financed and supported its design; and Solar Energy Solutions, who installed the panels. The ribbon cutting also served as the official kick-off of both Appalshop’s 33rd annual Seedtime on the Cumberland festival and its solar fundraising campaign.

For 50 years, Appalshop has been illustrating what’s possible in Appalachia. We are very excited to usher in our next 50 years with this solar pavilion.