(See below for two REAP case studies!)

“I would encourage any farmer to look at it if they have access to the REAP grant. With a 25% cost share and the prices coming down so much, it’s become very affordable for farms to do this. I’m very pleased.” -Spencer Pope Farms, Carthage, MS

Solar prices have been coming down for several years, even more so in just the last few. But a lot of farmers still shy away from solar power because of what seem like steep upfront costs.

With the REAP grants and loans now available, the best time to make the switch to solar energy is now. Solar is the best way to secure huge long term energy savings. The REAP program makes it possible for farms to realize those savings much sooner.

What is the REAP Program?

There are two major parts to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP): the grant and the guaranteed loan.

The grant is like getting up to a 25% off coupon for your new solar panel installation. The loan can cover up to 75% of the costs of a project. The REAP program was created to help farmers, the agriculture industry, and rural businesses improve their energy efficiency. It does this in two primary ways:

  • Grants and loans to fund installation of renewable energy systems like solar power
  • Grants and loans to fund energy efficiency improvements like LED lighting

To qualify for the REAP program, there are some eligibility requirements. The main one is the location of your farm or business. Check your REAP eligibility on this USDA web page.

When you click the link, you’ll have to accept their terms, and then you’ll come to a map. Type in your address in the upper left and click “go”, and it will tell you if your location is eligible for the REAP.

How does the REAP program cut farm expenses?

The maximum amount funded by a REAP grant is 25% of the total cost, up to $500,000. The maximum loan amount is $25 million. But if you can combine a REAP grant or loan with state, local, or federal tax incentives, you can take a big bite out of the already-falling costs of a solar array installation.

From 2008 to 2013, just the Southeastern states alone got more than $50 million in REAP grants, and more than $31 million in REAP loan guarantees.

A big chunk of this went to 340 new solar projects on farms and other rural businesses.

Here are two case studies to give you some specific numbers.

REAP Grant Case Study 1: Free Electricity at Spencer Pope Farms

Like many farmers who may be uncertain about solar energy, Spencer Pope heard about the REAP and wasn’t entirely sure it would pan out. But energy costs on his poultry farm were skyrocketing “through the roof,” and the $20,000 solar tech grant from REAP was enough to make solar panels affordable.

So in 2009 he installed enough solar panels to cover 20% of his farm’s electricity usage. It was an 8.4kW photovoltaic (PV) solar system. In the first year, it saved him $250 per month, which was more than the predictions he’d been given.

Pope was so pleased by these results that he installed an additional 38.7kW after that. Now his solar panels generate 100% of his poultry farm’s electricity.

100%. That means it’s basically free. And once he has fully recovered his initial costs through his monthly savings, it will be.

Spencer Pope Farms solar panels

Pope is now a solar believer. He wants every qualified rural business to know that REAP grants and loans have turned solar power into the most economical way to slash your energy costs:

“Especially with solar, now that prices have come so extremely down in the past two years, we really are at the point where this grant will be the tipping point…. I would encourage my neighbors to pursue it.”

REAP Grant Case Study 2: Energy Efficiency Audits, University of Georgia, Athens

UGA won a $100,000 grant in 2009 that allowed the university to perform energy audits for poultry farms throughout Georgia. These audits gave farmers specific steps they could take to improve their energy efficiency. As a side benefit, they also gave some farmers information the REAP program application asks for.

So far they have audited over 1000 poultry houses on 50 farms. 75-80% of those farms have now made energy efficiency upgrades because of what the audits found, such as outdated equipment. One problem was found on almost every farm – plastic ventilation curtains. Replacing these with insulated walls cut energy use by as much as to 50%.

The amount of energy savings just from these audits is enough to power 5600 homes. Dr. John Worley from the UGA says it this way:

“If we can put money into helping people be more energy efficient and use less energy, then that’s probably the cheapest way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

How much more can be done?

There are over 12,000 poultry house in Georgia alone. In the whole Southeastern US, there are many more than that. And there are many other kinds of rural farms and businesses too. The potential cost and energy savings are enormous – for individual farmers and for the whole system.

And that’s just from making efficiency improvements. When you combine those with new solar energy, you’ve got cost savings coming at you from all directions.

How Do I Apply for a REAP Grant or Loan?

Visit this USDA page for more details.

Note: After you click this link, click the “Forms and Resources” tab to see the application options (there is more than one type, depending on what you’re applying for).

As you might expect with the government, they make it more complicated than it needs to be. But if you’re serious about wanting to save big on your energy bills by switching your farm to solar power, Coastal Solar will walk with you through the REAP application process. We’ll simplify the process, and make it easier, finish it faster, and ensure accuracy with all the details.

We specialize in agriculture industry solar panel installations, and we know the ins and outs of the REAP program, including the loans and the grants.

Contact us today and we’ll help you answer a number of initial questions about REAP, such as:

  • Is my farm qualified to receive a REAP grant or loan?
  • If so, for how much?
  • What’s best for me – the grant or the loan?
  • Which application do I have to fill out?
  • What information do I need to have ready to fill out the application?
  • When’s the deadline for this year? October 31st, 2016
  • And much more

We’ll walk you through the process and make sure you get the best possible deal on your new solar panels. Soon enough, you’ll be able to tell your fellow farmers and other friends about your energy savings, just like Spencer Pope has done.

As he said, the REAP program has made this the “tipping point” that makes solar not just a feel-good dream, but the most economically wise option available to qualified farmers.

Contact Coastal Solar today if you want help on your REAP application