Fulton is a small town in Missouri and the largest city in Callaway County, with a population of about 13,000 people. But for many rural towns, identifying and securing solar incentives can be a challenge. RD’s Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants (REAP) offers a viable option for rural communities who want to go green.
"A lot of larger cities and utility providers offer incentives to go solar, but our small-town utility provider does not," said Sam Doerhoff, a recipient of the REAP grant from RD. “Given that we live in a small town, the USDA made that opportunity possible for us."
Doerhoff, a property manager for At Home Real Estate in Fulton, Missouri, installed a 24-kilowatt solar array system on his building with the help of a $12,800 REAP grant, bringing his electric bill from $400 a month down to a negative bill.
“We can boast that our office is 100% powered on green electricity and environmentally friendly,” he said. “We like knowing that our solar panels help the environment and reduce air pollution in our community.”
Doerhoff hired a local solar installer from Greenleaf Solar out of Columbia and decided to add more projects creating the first green apartment building in Fulton.
"It's eight units, but it'll have an $80,000 solar array on it with high-efficiency H-VAC systems and high-efficiency water heaters," Doerhoff said. "We are also installing seven electric car chargers after the one at the office was such as success for the town."
The REAP program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to improve energy efficiency.
"Since solar power is new to our area, I can tell them about the USDA grant and other federal incentives and benefits of going solar," Doerhoff said. "It started a conversation that may not otherwise be happening in our town, and others are now considering going solar in Fulton."