Solar energy is getting so cheap that even this coal museum is using it.

The move is symbolic of a lot of the progress made in green energy as of late.

Deep in the heart of coal country, a very unexpected business is going green.

The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum is adding solar panels to its building.

The museum, located in the southeast Kentucky town of Benham, aims to shine a light on the important role coal played (and continues to play) in meeting our energy needs — which makes it worth asking why it's moving away from its namesake fuel source to suit its own power needs.


The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum has 4 floors of non-stop history to keep you busy for hours! Located in Benham, KY.

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The answer is actually really simple: Solar is cheaper.

The irony certainly isn't lost on the museum's owners, but there's no denying that solar power just makes sense from a financial standpoint.  

Until recently, there was a trade-off when it came to choosing renewable energy. But clean-energy technology is becoming more efficient and less expensive every day, with the cost of solar energy coming in at less than half the cost of coal in some places. In December, Bloomberg reported on the stunning advances that have been made in just the past couple of years. Solar-panel technology has seen remarkable improvements in just the past year, finally becoming truly competitive with fossil fuels in terms of efficiency.

Photos by Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images (left), Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images.

"We believe that this project will help save at least $8,000 to $10,000 off the energy costs on this building alone," Brandon Robinson, communications director at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, the group that owns the museum, told WYMT.

When it comes to adding solar panels to a museum about the coal industry, "It is a little ironic," Robinson admitted. "But you know, coal and solar and all the different energy sources work hand-in-hand. And, of course, coal is still king around here."

Between solar, wind, and especially natural gas, coal and oil have seen a major uptick in competition in recent years. The competitive cost of clean energy poses a challenge to President Trump, who campaigned on a platform of bringing jobs back to the coal industry.

It's not regulation that killed off coal mining jobs around the U.S. It's innovation, making Trump's promise to put miners back to work an empty one.

In March, Trump gutted the clean-energy and climate initiatives put in place by his predecessor. "C’mon, fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says?" Trump said, surrounded by miners as he sat down to sign an executive order rolling back regulations. "You’re going back to work."

The problem, however, is that there isn't work to go back to. The industry has moved on.

Photos by Mark Lyons/Getty Images (left), Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

Trump's actions on energy and climate change will have an effect, that's for sure. It's just probably not the one his supporters voted for.

In February, Trump rolled back the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, a regulation put in place by the Obama administration protecting waterways from coal debris. And while he called it "another terrible job killing rule" and said that rolling it back would save "many thousands American jobs, especially in the mines," it probably won't.

What it will do is make it easier to poison the drinking water of coal communities, something the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum's hometown of Benham, knows a lot about, with some residents expressing concern about their water quality in recent years.

Adding solar panels to the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum is symbolic in a lot of really hopeful ways.

It's a sign that we don't have to forget our past to move toward the future. It's a sign that even in the heart of coal country, people can appreciate energy innovation.

And most importantly and hopefully, it's a sign that even with Trump's actions that threaten to roll back the progress we've made on addressing energy and climate change, progress continues.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

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Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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