Alternative energy options explored

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By April Wright, Reporter

Matthews State Forest near Galax could house alternative energy projects if the Appalachian Regional Commission approves a grant application.
On Aug. 16, Galax City Council approved a letter of support for the effort after hearing from Gary Boring and Dr. Jim Nuckolls, who are working on the application for an ARC Alternative Energy Grant for the New River Highlands Resource Conservation District.

They are proposing joint alternative projects for the region with construction of alternative sustainable energy projects being placed at Matthews State Forest, just west of Galax off U.S. 58.
Possibilities include the development of energy from biomass, wind, solar power, landfill methane recovery or hydropower.
The New River Highlands RC&D Council and the Virginia Department of Forestry plan to develop energy efficiency and renewable energy infrastructure in Galax, Grayson and Carroll.
Phase I of this project would be to identify and evaluate various energy efficiency improvement activities and community scale renewable energy projects through Galax, Grayson and Carroll.
Phase II would be to establish a demonstration scale project at the Matthews State Forest, eventually developing that site into a regional natural resource and renewable energy center.
If the project is funded, work would be done to identify and evaluate potential energy efficiency improvement activities and/or community-scale renewable energy projects in the city.
Boring and Nuckolls said that they believe this project presents an opportunity for the rural community, with the potential to jump-start rural revitalization and energy security through clean, renewable, reliable and local fuel sources. Potential benefits, they said, include additional local jobs, lower energy costs and more opportunities for sustainable forest management.
In other action, council:
• discussed scheduling a planning session to develop a set of goals the city can work towards. City Manager Keith Barker noted that the city is closing on several projects, such as the Galax downtown revitalization project, Galax Visitors' Center, Chestnut Creek School of the Arts and Felts Park permanent stage, and other efforts are still being pursued, such as the Farmers' Marker expansion, Wired Road project, Galax-Grayson industrial park and the Wildwood regional commerce park.
Barker told city council that members may want to begin looking at other initiatives and goals. City council plans to schedule a planning session later.
• decided to run an ad in the newspaper soliciting interest to replace Dorothy Lovelady on the Board of Zoning Appeals because she will be moving.
• decided to seek someone to replace Justin Barnard on the Rooftop of Virginia Indoor Plumbing and Rehab Board. Barnard serves as the Galax representative on that board, but has relocated to Carroll County. Barnard will continue to hold the position until he is replaced.
• approved 2011 aid to locality budget reductions being imposed on the city due to the state budget issues. The city approved the reductions of $33,057.
• approved Galax Mayor C.M. Mitchell and Council Member John Garner to be on the 2012 budget committee that includes Barker and finance director Judy Taylor-Gallimore.
• adopted a proclamation for National Patriotism Week, Sept. 6-12, as requested by the Galax Elks Lodge.
• recognized Galax High School students Tyler Carpenter, an FBLA state champion and second-place winner in the national competition; and Kristen Osborne, an FBLA state champion.