As a large producer of grapes and a connoisseur of wine, Bill Sanderson had a dream to own a Winery that offered a Tasting Facility and Event Hall. Construction costs and future operating expenses were a major obstacle for business owners, Bill and Marjie Sanderson. Discussing his idea with employees of the Union City Area Office, Mr. Sanderson learned about the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). He was intrigued by the thought of owning a Solar Array that could power his tasting room at White Squirrel Winery while reducing energy costs and the carbon footprint of the business. His research of Solar Energy and Solar Companies in the area soon led to a partnership with Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Rural Development, and Solar & Renewable Power Systems. The 10kW solar array was designed to meet the power needs of the White Squirrel Winery, and any energy created over and above what it takes to power the facility may be sold back to TVA. Presently, the system is producing about twice the energy needed to operate the facility.
The Rural Energy for America Program helps rural businesses and agricultural producers purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements, lowering utility costs and increasing America's energy independence. All projects must be located in a rural area, must be technically feasible, and must be owned by the applicant.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, community development, health, education, homeownership and affordable rental housing to improve the lives of people in rural areas and the economic health of rural communities. Since 2009, the agency has assisted more than 1.5 million families and businesses in over 230 communities in all 95 counties of Tennessee, investing more than $5.4 Billion into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.