About Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia

For nearly two centuries, Appalachia has powered America with energy — from coal to oil to gas. We are the backbone of the American economy. But the world is changing all around us. We need safe, reliable energy that builds wealth here at home.

Renewable energy is the opportunity Appalachia has been waiting for to rebuild our towns and diversify our economy.

Our vision

We envision a clean, equitable energy system that directs control and benefits back to local communities, with solar on every roof and money in every pocket.

Our mission

We’re a community of people building a new energy system and rooftop solar is the cornerstone. We help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.

Our partners

We work with amazing partners to spread the solar word. Our partner organizations range from nonprofits to municipal governments, universities to community organizations, and individual “super volunteers” to houses of worship.

Some of our awesome partners in West Virginia over the last few years have included:

            

 

                             

 

West Virginia advisory board

Our West Virginia advisory board provides strategic guidance to our work. Members do not have fiduciary oversight but provide strategic direction to the program. They are members of successful solar co-ops, solar champions, and leaders in the community.

Mary Ellen Cassidy Mary Ellen is a native of Wheeling and co-owner of the historic First State Capitol, a building in downtown Wheeling that integrates historical preservation with energy efficiency technology and solar panels. She founded Wheeling Academy of Law and Science. Her professional work includes teaching (chemistry, environmental science) and research. Her grant supported projects examine the impacts of energy systems on community watersheds.

Mary Ellen currently teaches statistics as an adjunct professor at Wheeling Jesuit University. She also serves as coordinator for the New Energy Economy Program at Wheeling Academy of Law and Science Foundation, providing programs related to conservation, efficiency and renewable energy. In addition, she chairs the City of Wheeling’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Recycling, and is the coordinator of the Wheeling Solar Co-op. She is also a member of the Wheeling Green Team.

Joe Chasnoff Joe founded Stand Up, Monroe!, an organization dedicated to fighting unfair pipelines in his home community of Union, West Virginia. Joe was also the co-founder of the Monroe County Power Co-op and has installed solar on his business.
 Robert Fernatt
 In his day job, Robert is a mild-mannered solution architect for a technology consulting firm and spent his previous years as the technology director for the state unemployment agency and managing state technology projects. On nights and weekends, however, he dons his fossil fuel fighting gear, silently starts his trusty Nissan Leaf and crusades for energy freedom through the promotion of solar and electric vehicle adoption. Robert’s all electric base of operations in the eastern panhandle is fully powered by a roof mounted solar array that keeps his wife and two feline sidekicks safe and comfortable. Robert holds a Technology Management master’s degree from Marshall University and has lived and worked in West Virginia his entire life.
Joey James
Joey is a multidisciplinary researcher who specializes in sustainable economic development and renewable energy systems in Appalachia. With experience in the public, non‐profit, and private sectors, he has worked extensively in energy policy analyses, geographic information system development, economic modeling, environmental data analysis, and environmental outreach. He serves as the chair of the Morgantown Municipal Green Team and is a project scientist at Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting firm.
Cathy Kunkel Cathy is the director of Rise Up WV, a grassroots community organization in Charleston. Prior to joining Rise Up, she worked as an energy analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, where her research focused on the U.S. utility sector. She has testified before energy regulatory bodies in West Virginia and Puerto Rico. Before moving to West Virginia, she was a senior research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Cathy has undergraduate and master’s degrees in physics.
Jamie Van Nostrand Jamie is a professor and director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University (WVU) College of Law. Before coming to WVU in July 2011, he was executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center in White Plains,New York. Before his transition to teaching law, he had a successful private law practice in the Pacific Northwest. Jamie received his LL.M. in environmental law from Pace Law School, his J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law, his master’s degree in economics from SUNY at Albany, and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Northern Iowa.

Emmett Pepper

Emmett is the executive director for Energy Efficient West Virginia. Emmett graduated with a B.A. in political science from Virginia Tech and a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law. He worked in the Northeast on energy and environmental policy. Upon his return to his hometown of Charleston in 2012, he clerked for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals as a writ clerk. Besides spending much of his time working to advance energy efficiency policy and participation, Emmett actively supports policies that enhance consumer protections, access to justice, and low-income protections.
Hannah Vargason Hannah is the Business Development & Energy Project Manager at Natural Capital Investment Fund. Hannah manages outreach and advisory services as well as NCIF’s Energy Initiative, a project promoting sustainable economic development in rural Appalachia though energy efficiency and renewable energy. She develops energy-related products and services, coordinates technical assistance, sources and underwrites loans, and markets NCIF across the Virginias and western Maryland. Hannah works with a regional network of service providers and capital and funding sources.

Contact the West Virginia team

Solar United Neighbors named “One of the Best” by the Catalogue for Philanthropy

In 2017 the Catalogue for Philanthropy named us “One of the Best” small nonprofits in the Washington, D.C. area for our programmatic impact and financial ...

In honor of Bill Howley

On April 23, 2015, our West Virginia Program Director Bill Howley, was killed in an auto accident. Bill was a leading citizen advocate on energy issues in West ...
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