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More farmers can turn to solar power through Rural Development
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Small businesses and farmers are beginning to take advantage of a program through USDA Rural Development that provides a grant of up to 25 percent of the costs of installing renewable energy systems, up to $500,000 with a minimum of $2,500. Of particular interest has been solar panels, which cost around $5-$6 per watt to install, but which often pay for themselves within a few years and also provide income when energy is sold back to the electric utility.
“We are gratified that more rural Georgia businesses and farmers are willing to install solar,” said Donnie Thomas, acting state director of USDA Rural Development. “Solar does require an upfront investment from the business, but the return on that investment is lessened when USDA funds, state tax credits and Federal tax payments are used.  Solar is good for the environment and is good for Georgia.”
The following five recipients have installed solar panels since FY 2009. Two are small businesses, two are small farms, and one is a small business closely associated with a farmer.
Shamrock Renewable Properties, LLC, in Albany, received a loan for $240,000 and a grant for $300,000 to install a 200 kilowatt (kw) solar photovoltaics (pv) system.  The energy produced by this system is being sold to Georgia Power through a Distributed Generation Service Agreement that runs for five years.  The system is expected to produce almost 300,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually for 25 years, or enough to power 40 average homes for a year.
Craig Greene, a farmer in Watkinsville, received a grant for $15,229 for the installation of a 9.6 kw solar (pv) system.  This system is designed to offset current electrical expenses and to sell any excess energy back into the grid.
For more information, visit, go to the Business Programs tab and go to Rural Energy for America Program. Craig Scroggs in Monroe (; 770-267-1413, ext. 113) and Al  Burns, renewable energy specialist, in Tifton (; 229-382-0273, ext. 109) can provide assistance.