Solar Holler is innovating for the future of Appalachia.
written by MASON JACK
WEST VIRGINIA HAS LONG BEEN SYNONYMOUS WITH COAL MINING, an industry that has shaped the state’s identity and landscape for generations. Coal, of course, is formed from the remains of plants that absorbed sunlight through photosynthesis millions of years ago. Some would argue that coal is nature’s way of storing sunshine. The image of a hard-working miner, pickaxe in hand, striking the ground to extract ancient sunlight is familiar. But look again at Solar Holler’s logo, and you’ll realize they are fully focused on harnessing the sun’s power in real time.
This visionary company was founded in Shepherdstown in 2013 by Dan Conant, a West Virginia native who saw an opportunity to create jobs and promote sustainable energy in his home state. Its mission is to make solar energy more accessible and affordable for homeowners, businesses, and communities in the region. The company provides various services, including panel installation, energy audits, and innovative financing options for solar projects. With hundreds of employees, an apprenticeship program, and thousands of solar projects under its collective belt thus far, the company shows no signs of stopping.
But what sets Solar Holler apart from other solar companies is its commitment to the environment, its dedication to creating local jobs, and its support for the communities it serves. For example, its first project used a first-of-its-kind crowdfunding program for solar in the region that received national recognition for its innovation. This community-based approach helps promote energy independence and selfsufficiency in rural communities while creating jobs and reducing energy costs in places that may otherwise have been left in the dark.
“We are a rare breed—a fully licensed electrical contracting firm with policy and financing expertise, the best design and modeling team in the business, a finger on the pulse of cutting-edge technology, and an absolute commitment to bringing affordable solar energy within reach of everyone in Appalachia,” says Solar Holler Director of Marketing and Storytelling Heather Ransom. “We also made history as the first West Virginia solar company to become a benefit corporation—that legally commits us to putting our team members, the planet, and communities around Appalachia on an equal footing with profits.”
The process of switching your home or business to solar is a seamless and comprehensive one. It begins with a thorough site assessment to determine the viability of solar installation, considering factors such as sun exposure, roof condition, and energy needs. Next comes the installation process, where Solar Holler’s local, unionized labor force ensures that solar panels are installed to maximize their performance and longevity. Solar Holler also provides ongoing solar system maintenance—the electrical kind, not the planetary kind—and monitoring to ensure optimal performance and customer satisfaction.
The switch to solar energy from traditional utilities can have far-reaching benefits for West Virginia and its residents. The industry is still in its early stages of development in the state, ranking 48th in the nation for total installed solar capacity, and there is room—and appetite—for growth. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in late 2022 provided a bevy of tax incentives for those wanting to make the switch, with up to 70% savings off the total investment possible. The transition has the potential to drive economic growth, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and improve the environment, all while making clean energy accessible and affordable. Solar Holler is not just a solar company, but a beacon of hope for a brighter and more sustainable future in Appalachia and beyond.