Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind energy technology testbed in Southwest Virginia that will provide land as laboratories and scientific assistance to promote energy innovation.
The Energy DELTA Lab’s initial site will be located in Wise County near the Town of Pound, and current plans call for the potential development of additional testbed sites around the region. The Energy DELTA (Discovery, Education, Learning & Technology Accelerator) Lab initiative is a collaborative effort by the Virginia Department of Energy, the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority, and its business development partner InvestSWVA.
“Since announcing the Virginia 2022 Energy Plan, I am pleased to announce this Energy DELTA Lab project which delivers on our vision to define Virginia as a force in energy innovation,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “No other project like it exists in the United States. With this energy testbed, we see a commitment to transformation, encouragement for startup enterprises and support for the development of promising careers in exciting new fields.”
The Energy DELTA Lab is the culmination of four years of work to establish a vehicle in Southwest Virginia that can lead research geared toward commercialization and deployment of new forms of energy that are clean and can be delivered at a low cost. The initial testbed site in Wise County will be located on property owned by the Cumberland Forest Limited Partnership and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Lead private industry partners include Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy Virginia.
“The Energy DELTA Lab’s focus on leveraging legacy energy assets to develop new and innovative energy technologies can only happen in Southwest Virginia,” said Will Payne, Managing Partner of Coalfield Strategies, the firm leading business development for the Energy DELTA Lab and InvestSWVA. “This is just the beginning of the work we must do together to deliver on our vision to build a new, diversified economy in the region. And, with the Energy DELTA Lab as our vehicle, we can define Virginia as a hub of energy innovation in America.”
The Energy DELTA Lab initiative was developed through a previously announced $975,000 grant from the federal Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program, which works to support economic and community development goals in regions impacted by the downturn of coal production. The funding, subject to final approval by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, will be used to acquire access to previously-mined land and for infrastructure improvements necessary to deploy clean energy projects.
The initiative builds upon Southwest Virginia’s unique legacy. With more than 100,000 acres of previously mined property, more than 9,000 gas wells, numerous mine cavities, and boundless water supplies, the region’s diverse terrain, mineral and underground resources provide the ideal setting for the commercialization and deployment of new, burgeoning energy technologies, including hydrogen, mine-based geothermal, small modular nuclear reactors, innovative solar generation and advanced energy storage, including pumped-storage hydro.
At its core, the Energy DELTA Lab is an economic development strategy to drive growth and diversify Southwest Virginia’s economy. The work that goes into these projects and the resulting energy assets will bring new opportunities to a region that has been significantly impacted by the downturn of fossil fuel production. This activity will ultimately create new career pathways for the region’s workforce.
The innovative project has strong support from Southwest Virginia’s delegation in Congress.
“This project is one more embodiment of our vision for reimagining Southwest Virginia’s economic competitiveness,” said Delegate Terry Kilgore (1st District), Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates and InvestSWVA co-chair. “Energy is a business we know. On behalf of the region’s entire legislative delegation, I can say we believe that this research effort linked with economic development will create new opportunities for the entire region.”