Ky. farmers eligible for grants to finance clean energy projects

Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program, farmers and rural small business owners could receive a grant to finance 50% of the cost of clean energy projects.

The funds can be used to produce energy, including solar, wind and hydropower, and to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, such as lighting, doors, windows and insulation.

Gallrein Farms in Shelbyville received REAP funding this week. The $111,778 grant will help install more solar panels on the property.

“We will be able to use (the grant) for larger projects we would like to do on the farm, possibly purchase new equipment, upgrade equipment, expand our greenhouses, expand our market and continue to provide well to the community,” Gallrein Farm Manager Gabriella Gallrein said.

According to USDA State Director of Rural Development Tom Carew, Gallrein Farms expects to save more than $14,000 a year in energy costs by installing solar panels.

“(The subsidy) can really help with the bottom line,” Carew said Monday. “It can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. And this is a stimulus for the economy.”

The funding comes from the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which supports clean energy initiatives to combat the ongoing climate crisis. Kentucky is getting hotter and wetter due to climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Last year, IRA-financed renewable energy projects saved Kentucky more than $3 billion, according to a report by the U.S. Congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Ken Slattery is an energy consultant with EightTwenty, an Indiana-based solar panel installer for Gallrein Farms. He said the IRA is the reason solar is cheaper.

“We need this kind of support from the federal government,” Slattery said. “This system (in Gallrein) without subsidies would pay for itself in nine or 10 years. Thanks to the subsidy, the payback is almost immediate.”

Gallrein Farms, like many other farms, burns fossil fuels to sustain its operations, Gallrein said, and she hopes a renewable energy source — such as solar panels — can reduce its carbon footprint.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how important energy is to business,” Gallrein said. “And especially for a company like this where we have a market. We have over 10 greenhouses. We have grain bins. We have all this equipment. And for this we need energy. So it’s nice to see how (solar) energy can be used to run this place.”

REAP applications can be submitted online from late June to September. Applicants must have a business in a city with up to 50,000 inhabitants.

Copyright 2024 LPM News