What are some resources for funding a solar electric system on my farm?
P.S.VirginiaAnswer: Thank you for your recent request for information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service regarding grants, loans, and other financial assistance for a solar electric system. Focusing just on solar, there are a number of incentives you may be eligible for to reduce the overall cost of your solar project. If you are using electricity on your farm (your home energy needs are not eligible for the program) you may be eligible for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP provides a 25 percent grant for solar power to be installed on the farm. The minimum amount of a REAP grant for a solar system must be $10,000 and applying for the grant is quite complicated. Farmers usually hire a “grant packager” to perform an energy audit on the farm and write the majority of the grant application. In addition to the grants, you may also apply for a REAP guaranteed loan in the amount of 50 percent of the total project costs. More information regarding REAP is available at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/farmbill/index.html. The Property Tax Exemption for Solar is a local option that your county may have opted into. To see the list of counties participating in this program and whether your county is one of them, visit http://www.dsireusa.org/solar/index.cfm?ee=1&RE=1&spf=1&st=1.Because solar power is very expensive, it is almost always better to focus on energy conservation and energy efficiency first. There are several energy efficiency programs that you are likely eligible for. The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit program is a federal tax credit which allows you to “write-off” up to 30% of a solar projects’ costs. This requires that you have taxable income. However, you can write the project costs off each year through 2016. More information on this tax credit is available at http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US37F&re=1&ee=1. You may be eligible for the Income Tax Deduction for Energy-Efficient Products. This program provides an individual tax deduction of 20% for things like clothes washers, refrigerators, ceiling fans, lighting, central air conditioners, and thermostats. More information on the program is available at http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=VA39F&re=1&ee=1. Additional cash rebates for these and other appliances are available through the Residential Energy-Efficient Appliance Rebate program. Information on this program is available at http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=VA31F&re=1&ee=1. There are many no- or low-cost measures you can take to reduce your power bills. Take a look at the tips listed on the AEP website at https://www.appalachianpower.com/save/Default.aspx.