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Can entrepreneurs remake Southwest Virginia’s energy economy?

The image of Southwest Virginia as a region reeling from the decline of the coal industry was earned fairly. But a newly formed organization, the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority, is aiming to reshape the region’s energy economy using entrepreneurship and innovation. Formed by action of the Virginia General Assembly in 2019, the authority named Mike Quillen, former CEO of Alpha Natural Resources as its first chairman. “This authority is going to think outside the box on energy projects that bring together innovative research, workforce development, and economic development under one umbrella,” Quillen said. “Our team is going to think creatively and strategically on how to to pair renewable energy with job-creating projects.”

To that end, the authority is already working on four projects, any one of which could potentially create jobs and investment.

The project that’s furthest along is the work being done by MOVA Technologies. MOVA announced June 29 it had successfully completed proof-of-concept testing at Virginia Tech and is moving on to seek partners for real-world pilot projects in commercial settings.

Naming MOVA’s work on filtration of airborne pollutants “Project Revolution” may sound like hyperbole, but if the technology can be brought to scale for commercialization, revolutionary might just be an accurate description.

“Existing technologies that remove particulate matter and scrubbers that remove gaseous pollutants fail to meet the complex needs of today’s industries,” said Luke Allison, MOVA spokesman. “When pollutants enter current filtration devices, the filters simply trap all pollutants in a single storage area, creating a toxic mixture. Once this toxic mixture is created, the captured pollutants cannot be recovered for any further use.

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