Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Solar fund for Appalachia to hold webinar April 21

A new regional solar initiative awarded its first $44,690 grant award to help a nonprofit go solar on April 7. More such awards are on the horizon in the six states where the fund operates. 

Join a webinar on Thursday, April 21, at 12 p.m., EDT, to learn about the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund (SFF), a new program to jump-start public, nonprofit and commercial solar projects in coal-impacted communities of Central Appalachia. 

Members of the SFF Executive Committee will discuss the fund’s purpose and structure, and how to apply for funding support. SFF team members will also share news about the Southwest Virginia Solar Workforce Accelerator, a related partnership between the SFF and community and technical colleges to create an apprenticeship-to-jobs pipeline in the region’s solar industry. 

RSVP here to attend. 

The presentation will be followed by a Q&A. Civic, nonprofit and business leaders, solar developers, and members of the media and public are encouraged to attend. 

The SFF is deploying a recent $1.5 million Appalachian Regional Commission POWER Initiative award for competitive subgrant awards for solar projects on nonprofit and public buildings and competitive technical assistance contracts for solar installations on commercial enterprises.

It is simultaneously developing additional investment and credit enhancement strategies to support the growth of more solar energy in the region. The resulting solar projects are creating new jobs and attracting investment to communities hard hit by the decline of the region’s coal industry. 

The Appalachian Solar Finance Fund is a project of Appalachian Voices, the Central Appalachian Network, Partner Community Capital, Invest Appalachia and New Resource Solutions that aims to accelerate solar development and economic growth in Central Appalachia. 

Support for the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund is provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative, the Appalachian Investment Ecosystem Initiative, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, New York Community Trust, the Educational Foundation of America, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and other pending sources. 

Learn more at

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Carolyn Ward, Andy Kegley and Broaddus Fitzpatrick. Photo by Taylored Images.

Parkway foundation honors Hoell, Fitzpatrick, Kegley

On Thursday, April 7, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation honored special members of its community of stewards during a 25th anniversary reception at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke. 

Conservationist and retired attorney Broaddus Fitzpatrick was awarded the Pat Shore Clark Stewardship Award for exemplary individual service in the advancement of the Foundation. 

George Kegley, a journalist, volunteer, philanthropist, and champion of preservation, was honored posthumously with the Legacy Service Award. His son Andy Kegley accepted the award on behalf of the Kegley family. In his speech, Andy fondly recalled drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway with his father and siblings. In addition to his work to protect the national park, George was known for championing land conservation and historic preservation as well as helping refugees, and driving for the Meals on Wheels program.

Jean hoell. Photo by Taylored Images.

General Manager Jean Hoell accepted the Corporate Champion Award on behalf of The Peaks of Otter Lodge operated by Delaware North. For years, the lodge at milepost 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway  has supported Parkway enhancements through the Parkway Partners check-in program. Guests are invited to donate $1 each night of their stay to support the Foundation’s work.

Founded in 1997, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the nonprofit fundraising partner for the Blue Ridge Parkway. The organization provides support for initiatives along the 469-mile route, including historical and cultural preservation, environmental protection, visitor amenities, and education and outreach. The Foundation’s work includes programming at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway, and the award-winning, nationwide Kids in Parks program.

The Foundation has offices in Roanoke and Galax, Va., and Asheville and Winston-Salem, N.C. For more information, visit

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Venkat Sridhar. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Tech professor receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to study water availability and demand research in India

Venkat Sridhar, a biological systems engineering professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to study in India, where he will conduct hydrological assessments on the Ganges and Cauvery river basins to quantify water availability and demand for agriculture.

The Ganges is revered as a holy river in India, and the Cauvery River basin serves as a significant rice-producing region for southern India. The Cauvery River is one of the few rivers that is shared by two states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Because of climate change and climate variability, these regions experience high variability in precipitation, leading to uncertain river flows and difficulties supplying enough water for agriculture. Activities like this have the potential to cause unrest in the region, affecting more than 300 million people.

Water supply projections from this study will support the efforts of various agencies, including the Central Water Commission of India and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in making seasonal forecasts, developing models, and conducting long-term planning.

“Remote sensing-based crop water demand or evapotranspiration estimations are critical for better water management because neither state has enough ground observations to quantify water availability and demand for agriculture,” Sridhar said in a statement.

Sridhar is one of more than 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2021-22 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State.

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Washington County library hosts talk by former CIA officer

The Washington County Public Library in Abingdon will host a talk May 8 from 3-4 p.m. on “Security, Politics, and Governance in East Asia: A Former CIA Officer Explains.”

Gail Helt, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Director of the Security and Intelligence Studies Program at King University, shares her experiences as a CIA Officer who traveled the world, and wrote for and briefed the senior-most policymakers in the U.S .Government. Dr. Helt’s research interests include democratization and liberalization, human rights, and political stability. She also has a keen interest in Chinese history and politics.

This event is free and open to the public. Call 276 676-6383 for more information about this and other programs at the library.