Hawaiian farms Score USDA Solar Grants

Two Hawaiian farms recently received USDA grants to help them gosolar with photovoltaics (PVs). The grants allow Lalamilo Farm Partnersand O Guest Ranch Maui ‘s Surfing Goat Diary to take advantage of theirislands’ abundant sun resources while reducing their need for energysupplied by their local grids. Together the systems should reduceelectricity bills by $53,900 annually, according to the USDA.

“We live on the side of the island that gets the most sun, and wefigured why not use it,” said Angela Reid, office manager at SurfingGoat Diary, who facilitated getting the grant. “We will begin theproject by the first week in October and hope to be done by end ofyear.”

When completed, the system will provide 100 percent of dairy’s energy needs.

“We want to be as self-sufficient as we can,” she said.

The goat farm received $70,060 under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to support building a 43 kilowatt (kW) PV array.

Lalamilo received a $169,500 grant from the REAP program to develop a 94.6 kW PV array. Surfing Goat Dairy will save $16,100 and Lalamilowill save $37,800 in annual electric costs.

“The grants cover up to 25 percent of eligible costs—up to $500,000,” for such systems, explained Tim O’Connell, assistant to the statedirector and rural energy coordinator for Hawaii.

The eligible application pool for the grants are “small farms andreally small businesses,” he said. “This year, we just happened to gettwo that were farms.”

Competition for the grants is fierce in Hawaii and across the nation. This year, only two of 10 applicants received the grants, O’Connellsaid.

“We applied 3 times before we got it,” Reid asserted.

The farm used a grant writer, and both the grant writer and O’Connell were helpful, she said. Hawaii’s program was out of money for the year, she said, but O’Connell helped them get the federal funds. The farmsecured the rest of the funds through a low-interest rate loan with Farm Credit Services.

It’s not the first time REAP grants have helped Hawaiian businesses go solar, according to O’Connell.

A grant supported a grocery store on the island of Molokai’s efforts to go solar. And results have been positive.

“One of the things we’re finding out when we do an initial review [of completed projects] is that solar production is two to three times greater than the published solar information.” At the grocer’s for instance, the PV system has reduced the store’selectric bill from “a couple thousand a month” to about $100 a month,O’Connell said.



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