LEE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – Lee County, Virginia Schools celebrated the launch of their new solar power system.

The school system worked with Secure Solar Futures to get solar panels on top of their school buildings.

“Secure Solar Futures is a solar developer that finances, builds, owns, operates and maintains on-site solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for schools, hospitals, governments and businesses to enhance their sustainability goals and to reduce their electricity costs,” says their website.

School board members say this change to solar power has helped save thousands of dollars. The savings create funding that can be used on other school projects.

“The energy savings that they’re going to save is very deployable for books, for students, for teachers, for busses, for any repairs that they may need,” said Matthew McFadden, the Business Development Manager for Secure Solar Futures in the southwest region.

Secure Solar Futures also pairs with schools to offer apprenticeship programs for students. Some students also get offered solar panel technician jobs after the apprenticeship period is over.

“Essentially what we do is we work with all of the career and technical centers to determine if that’s something that they actually want to do,” said McFadden. “To find the students that would benefit the most from it. With our apprenticeship program, we include college credits that are stackable in the electrical program, which is one of the most needed trades right now.”

Mason Taylor started as a student apprentice, now he works full time as a solar installer technician. He believes that this trade helps create jobs where coal has become less of a power source in Southwest Virginia.

“I believe where coal is sort of out the door around here now, this right here could be the next energy-making thing around here and could bring us back,” said Taylor. “It offers jobs. People need to install these things. They need to maintenance them. You need to have these people to maintenance these and keep up with these solar panels.”

While coal is not a desolate energy source in Southwest Virginia, McFadden believes in helping the area by adding more occupations to the area.

“I feel like every job that I can add back, not take away or not replace but something that I can add in addition, is going to help the population stay here and flourish,” said McFadden.

Through Secure Solar Futures, there are no upfront costs for schools. They have to agree to purchase the power that the panels provide. It is also completely free for schools to go through a full analysis before panel installation. Lee County Schools had new roofs put on before the installation of their solar panels.

Secure Solar Futures encourages more schools to try solar power.

“I think it’s very important that every school look at solar power because it’s a great way to save money, a great way to stretch their budget, and a great way to save the taxpayers’ money,” said McFadden.