A maximum percentage grant from the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has empowered a local chicken farmer to cut his electricity bills by going green with solar panels. And a free presentation in Moorefield January 29 will show other farmers and small business people in the area how to do the same.
Ward Malcolm, owner and operator of Malcolm Farms in Moorefield, estimates that the panels installed on his chicken coop roof will generate “about 80-percent of the farm’s power I would normally purchase” to run the farm, he said.
Hannah Vargason, the energy initiative project manager at National Capital Investment Fund (NCIF), a private lender, assisted Malcolm with writing and filing the grant application.
Vargason pointed out that other local small farmers and businesses can apply for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant, and will explain how to do so at a “Grow Your Bottom-Line” solar and renewable energy presentation January 29, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, at Eastern WV Community and Technical College in Moorefield.
She and Collin Williams, vice-president of Mountain View Solar in Berkeley Springs, will discuss farm, small business and commercial energy project building and training, and how investing in energy efficiency can reduce energy costs by up to 30%.
“NCIF offers business advisory services, including grant writing assistance,” Vargasson said. “We can help small businesses and agricultural producers access federal grants and rebate programs. This funding makes energy upgrades even more economical.”
Malcolm’s grant covered 25-percent of the total cost of the project, including solar panels and an electrical grid interconnection. He borrowed the rest from NCIF, and through another federal program reclaimed nearly one-third of his borrowed investment as an income tax credit.
“Let’s say your solar installation costs $100-thousand total,” he said. “The USDA offers grants for up to 25-percent of that cost, and then you find a loan for the remainder — in our example, that would be, say, $75-thousand. Then, because it’s renewable energy, the IRS lets you take 30-percent of that 75 — $22.5 thousand — off of the taxes you owe – not as a deduction, but as actual credit-for-payment.
“So essentially, the IRS is paying for 30-percent of the costs not covered by the USDA grant,” explained Malcolm.
Given the tax credit, Malcolm, who also serves as Dean of Career, Technical and Workforce Education at Eastern WV Community and Technical College, estimates that his savings on electricity will pay off the entire loan within 15 years.
“Overall, there is a real development of interest in solar in West Virginia,” noted Mountain View Solar’s Williamson. Headquartered in Berkeley Springs, with successful solar installations “all over the state,” Williamson has found that beyond their interest “in living a more environmentally active life,” many WV residents want “a certain amount self-sufficiency, and both of those are things that solar can help you achieve.”
For Malcolm, the solar installation will provide still an additional benefit. “In the past, to get a first-hand, up-close look at solar facilities, our students at Eastern had to travel to Harrisonburg to East Mennonite and James Madison Universities. Now they can visit our local, solar farm — which, at 35 kilowatts, is one of largest in the Potomac Highlands.”
The REAP program provides grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses and agricultural producers for up to 25-percent of the cost to purchase and install renewable energy generation systems. Typically, a business with fewer than 500 employees and revenue of less than $6.5 million will qualify.
For more information about Eastern’s financial aid opportunities, programs of study, workforce training and community education and events, call 304-434-8000; or toll free: 877-982-2322; or check the College’s website: “www.easternwv.edu”.