Sustainable Energy and Economic Diversification (SEED)


Coal River Mountain Watch’s Sustainable Energy and Economic Diversification (SEED) project works to demonstrate and implement viable energy and economic alternatives to coal in a front-line community devastated by mountaintop removal, coal waste, mine disasters, and other impacts imposed by the coal industry. Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation, Coal River Mountain Watch, Naoma, Raleigh County, West Virginia, Sustainability

While less than five percent of West Virginia’s workforce is employed by the coal industry, there is little other economic activity in our communities. The industry’s propagandists have successfully ingrained the narrative that “West Virginia is coal,” that coal is all West Virginia will ever have, and that the state is economically dependent on coal. Our governor is a billionaire coal baron, and our legislators have literally given coal lobbyists the keys to the Capitol. Economic diversification faces a hostile government.

Solar Energy Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation, Naoma, Raleigh County, West Virginia, solar

In 2017, the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation approved CRMW for a grant to install a grid-tied solar photovoltaic system at the Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation. We raised additional funds from grants and individual donors to also include a battery backup and to demonstrate the contrast between dirty coal impacts and clean energy with our Show and Tell Energy Education and Policy (STEEP) Show and Tell Energy Education and Policy project. West Virginia’s Solar Holler installed the system in the spring of 2018. With our battery backup, we will still have power and serve the community when (not if) power goes out due to weather, tree falls, or other reasons. Residents will be able to charge their devices, check emergency updates, have a hot meal, have a hot shower, and have a warm bed for the night if needed. On the frontlines of extreme coal extraction, we will disprove the coal industry myth that solar doesn’t work, easily visible directly across the street from the post office.

We plan to have an open house and invite the community and area journalists. We will have at least one additional solar workshop during the year.


In 2017, we got prepared to plant a half acre of industrial hemp in 2018, including needed permits. CRMW is a member and shareholder in the West Virginia Farmers’ Cooperative. We’re currently hosting a volunteer from the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program. He’s built a shed, attended a WV Farmers’ Cooperative meeting, held a hemp workshop, prepared the ground, and planted hemp. CRMW staff, volunteers, and interns will tend and harvest the crop. This effort will demonstrate the feasibility of this potentially lucrative crop for small landowners. We will host an additional hemp workshop in the summer.


In 2016 and 2017, CRMW hosted the Herbal Medics, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing botanical medicine and sustainable solutions to communities in need, free herbal clinics at the Judy Bonds Center, and we plan to host them again in 2018. In 2017 and 2018, we hosted Mountain Music and Medicinals events that included free music, free food, and free workshops on using mountain herbs for medicine and as an economic supplement. Harvesting ginseng and other medicinal plants has been popular for generations, and we help share information to make it more valuable for residents. This will be the third year that we’ve grown a medicinal herb garden.


In 2016, or co-director Debbie Jarrell learned beekeeping, became a member of the Raleigh County Beekeepers Association, and started beehives at her farm. In 2017, she placed one of the surviving hives at the Judy Bonds Center. In 2018, we received another hive setup from Whole Kids Foundation.


In addition to demonstrating viable options to our community, the SEED project provides important hands-on learning opportunities for our Coal River Environmental Education for Kids (CREEK) program. The kids learn an environmental ethic and pride in community service from cleaning up streams, hollows, and roadsides with our Tadpole Project. They also learn practical skills and awareness of sustainable alternatives to coal.