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DICKENSON COUNTY, Virginia, Dec 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Looking west from Hazel Mountain, Brad Kreps can see forested hills stretching to the Tennessee border and beyond, but it is the flat, denuded area in front of him he finds exciting.
Surface coal mining ended on this site several years ago. But with a clean-up underway, it is now being prepared for a new chapter in the region’s longstanding role as a major energy producer – this time from a renewable source: the sun.
While using former mining land to generate solar energy has long been discussed, this and five related sites are among the first projects to move forward in the coalfields of the central Appalachian Mountains, as well as nationally.
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Backers say the projects could help make waste land productive and boost economic fortunes in the local area, part of a 250,000-acre (101,171-hectare) land purchase by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2019, one of its largest such acquisitions.
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