Farmers Invest in Photovoltaic Power with USDA’s Help

Today, photovoltaic power and other renewable energy sources allow thousands of farms across the country to generate their own electricity. Since the adoption of the 2002 Farm Bill, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has offered grants and loan guarantees to help farmers cover their equipment and installation costs.

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REAP is now accepting even more grant and loan guarantee applications.

The REAP Program Encourages Photovoltaic Power Use on Farms

The USDA has funded billions of dollars in renewable energy loans and smart grid technologies, including the construction of more than 185,000 miles of transmission lines to serve 5 million rural customers. Since REAP’s inception, the USDA has helped with more than 2,200 wind and solar electricity generation projects.

REAP provides loan guarantees and grants in an effort to increase the country’s energy independence, and to guide the shift away from reliance on fossil fuels. Guarantees of up to 75 percent of project costs are available for loans, and the rates and terms are negotiable. In addition, grants can cover up to 25 percent of project costs.

How to Use REAP Funds to Reduce Photovoltaic Power Costs

Does this mean that eligible farmers and ranchers could cover the entire cost of their renewable energy systems? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Each applicant is expected to contribute at least 25 percent of their project cost, regardless of whether they seek a loan guarantee, a grant or both.

However, these rural systems may also qualify for the federal income tax credit, which may reduce overall system costs significantly.

Farmers, ranchers and owners of rural businesses can use REAP funds for the purchase and installation of both small and large-scale photovoltaic power systems. REAP funding can also go toward energy efficiency improvements to reduce electricity usage on the property as well as several other types of renewable energy systems.

For consideration under the next round of funding, interested farmers, ranchers and rural business owners must contact their state’s USDA Rural Development Energy Coordinator.

Installing Photovoltaic Power Systems on Farms

Farms and ranches have a variety of options to choose from when installing solar energy systems. Photovoltaic panels can be mounted on the rooftops of barns, livestock sheds, stables and other agricultural buildings to provide electricity where it is needed. Or a solar array can be ground-mounted on unusable farm land.

Some farmers using REAP funding also install solar thermal systems, using the sun’s power to heat water for farm operations.

Are you interested in learning more about how solar energy can benefit your farm or rural business? The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar are experts in the design and installation of cost-effective photovoltaic and solar thermal systems for rural properties throughout Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho. Contact us to schedule a free photovoltaic power consultation today.