Renewable Energy Optimization in the Heart of Coal Country

In the depths of coal country, one would not expect to find a growing diversified energy economy that includes a healthy mix of renewables. But in Williamson, WV, Sustainable Williamson is bullish on making a change, and hopes to inspire other communities throughout central Appalachia, coal country and the nation.

As part of its non-profit IndieGoGo campaign, Sustainable Williamson created a series of videos that depict a wide array of renewable energy projects that are either successfully deployed in the coalfields or are in the queue for deployment in the near future. It hopes that these projects will provide a working framework for ‘energy optimization’ in the region — transitioning communities from an aging monolithic fossil fuel economy to a rejuvenating diversified energy mix economy without picking winners or losers. This campaign focuses on creating a healthy combination of energies, both fossil and renewbale, that truly establishes an “all of the above” strategy. See the video below: 

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Project highlights include:

  1. The Smart-Office acts as the central node that will eventually become a pilot “micro-grid” or virtual power plant (VPP) by integrating a variety of technologies in a manner that allows our team to assess various energy optimization scenarios with the end goal of both net-zero design as well as assessing the relationship between both demand-control and demand-response technologies. With this effort, Sustainable Williamson hopes to identify synergies with West Virginia’s innovative “Super Circuit” project as they are utilizing similar resources on a smaller-scale.
  2. Integrated Energy Parks™ seek to synergistically scale-up a variety of energy resources which include natural gas, coal, solar and biomass. The IEP concept was recently discussed in Sustainable Williamson’s blog by Patriot Bioenergy’s CEO entitled “The Future Requires Integration of Energy Production and Processing.” Roger Ford describes how IEP’s point toward a concrete “All the Above” energy strategy that, if adopted, will position America as a global leader in energy research and development.
  3. Scaling up an innovative pyrolysis biomass technology developed by West Virginia’s very own Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center (MATRIC). To date, laboratory research at Virginia Tech is moving forward with some field studies that will take place throughout 2013 based upon the successful lab trials. If viable, this approach will contribute to the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative in scaling their proven Forest Reclamation Approach (FRA).

In the heart of coal country, many brilliant entrepreneurs are presently laying the framework for a new paradigm in energy development for the coalfields and perhaps the nation. Sustainable Williamson hopes to de-politicize energy and position America as a global leader in developing an energy strategy and policy that is rooted in what it does best: innovation.

Lead image:  Coal mining via Shutterstock

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First and foremost a philosopher, J. Eric Mathis has been at the forefront of initiatives to bridge the gap between the fossil fuel and renewable energy industries through the development and implementation of innovative finance and business models. These models are designed to be beneficial to both industries, creating mutually productive economic linkages between the fossil fuel and renewable industries and most importantly, the surrounding communities. As an active member of the community, he is helping to develop a comprehensive project entitled Sustainable Williamson which emphasizes health and wellness as a key component for economic revitalization. Using Sustainable Williamson as a template, his most recent endeavor is participating in the creation and implementation of the Central Appalachian Sustainable Economies (CASE) network which is a peer-to-peer regional network of innovators cultivating new ideas and resources in central Appalachia to grow healthy communities. Eric is a proud Green for All Fellow, a 2010 recipient of Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s Innovation Award for community renewables and a 2012 White House Champion of Change for Greening our Cities and Towns. As self described "evolutionary" and a nationally recognized practitioner of applied sustainability, he helped spearhead one of the America's first student lead Renewable Energy Initiatives, has lectured at MIT as part of the 2013-2014 Sloan Sustainability Speaker Series, has been both a speaker and a moderator of panels at many economic/sustainability conferences and is a frequent contributor/blogger for the world's #1 renewable energy network. His collaborative work has been covered by or featured in Biodiesel Magazine, BBC World News, Eye Opener TV, Bloomberg, Photon Magazine, Daily Yonder, West Virginia Executive Magazine, Fast Company, Home Power Magazine, PBS News Hour and Fortune Magazine. He is presently developing an "augmented" practitioners guide to sustainability that is set to be released 2015.

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