The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission has launched a new fund to support energy innovation and development in Southwest and Southside Virginia. The fund aims to create jobs and investment in the regions that were once dependent on tobacco farming.
What is the Energy Ingenuity Fund?
The Energy Ingenuity Fund is a new program that will provide up to $12 million for “high-impact” energy projects in the two service regions of the commission. The fund will require a dollar-for-dollar match from the applicants, who will be selected through a competitive process.
The fund is part of the commission’s efforts to diversify the economy and promote growth in rural Virginia, which has been struggling with the decline of the tobacco industry. The commission has been investing in economic development projects for 25 years, such as broadband, site readiness, education, workforce development, and agribusiness.
The fund will build on the commission’s previous investments and leverage the existing assets and opportunities in the energy sector. The commission expects the fund to not only create new jobs and investment in rural Virginia, but also to provide the innovative energy solutions that long-term economic prosperity requires.
What are the potential project areas?
The fund will support a wide range of energy project areas, such as:
- Energy manufacturing supply chain
- Energy production
- Grid resiliency
- Energy storage
- Hydrogen generation
- Smart cities
- Small scale modular reactors
- Conversion of coal mines
These project areas reflect the diverse and emerging energy landscape in Southwest and Southside Virginia, which has potential for both conventional and renewable energy sources.
How to apply for the fund?
The fund is open to any entity that can demonstrate a clear benefit to the commission’s service regions, such as:
- Local governments
- Economic development organizations
- Educational institutions
- Private businesses
- Public-private partnerships
The applicants must submit a pre-application by Feb. 15, 2024, and will be notified if they are selected to move on to the full application process. The pre-application form and more information about the fund can be found on the commission’s website.
The commission will evaluate the applications based on several criteria, such as:
- Project feasibility and readiness
- Project impact and alignment with the commission’s goals
- Project sustainability and scalability
- Project budget and match
- Project team and partners
The commission will announce the final awards in June 2024.
What are some examples of energy projects in the region?
Southwest and Southside Virginia have been working on several energy-related projects that could benefit from the new fund. Some examples are:
- The Energy DELTA Lab, which is an energy technology testbed that aims to transform former coal mining land into labs to promote energy innovation.
- A small modular nuclear reactor, which has been proposed for Southwest Virginia to help meet the state’s energy goals and provide jobs for the region hit hard by the downturn in the coal mining industry.
- A hydrogen production facility, which is being developed by a private company in Southside Virginia to produce green hydrogen from biomass and solar power.
These projects illustrate the potential and diversity of the energy sector in rural Virginia, and the new fund could help accelerate and expand them.