Monday, June 24, 2024

Actual Tales of the Rural Energy for America Program > Appalachian Voices


A colorful industrial machine completes the picture.

Gat Creek’s new, extremely environment friendly mud assortment system. Photo courtesy of Gat Caperton

By Taylor Pate

The Rural Energy for America Program presents grants and mortgage ensures to agricultural producers and small companies in rural areas to advertise power effectivity and renewable power progress. Through REAP, grants can cowl as much as 25% of whole mission prices, whereas mortgage ensures can cowl as much as 75% of those prices.

Since its inception, this system, led by the United States Department of Agriculture, has distributed billions of {dollars} in grant funds. Between 2018 and 2022, REAP has allotted greater than $700 million to Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia alone.

Known for its assist of photo voltaic initiatives, REAP can fund quite a lot of initiatives past photo voltaic panels. This contains wind generators, biomass amenities, and the set up and building of assorted energy-efficient upgrades. From high-efficiency HVAC techniques to insulation, lighting or cooling, the REAP grant can be utilized for a large spectrum of power effectivity enhancements.

Check out these tales of Appalachian entrepreneurs and farmers who’re profiting from REAP to create a greener future for his or her communities.

Transforming Crafting: The Gat Creek Road to Sustainable Furniture Manufacturing

Twenty-eight years in the past, Gat Caperton purchased an previous manufacturing facility in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, and remodeled it into Gat Creek, a family-owned furnishings producer identified for its handcrafted strong wooden furnishings. Gat Creek is now one of many largest personal employers within the space with 165 staff.

In 2023, Gat Creek, also called Caperton Furniture Works, obtained a $362,630 grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program. This funding allowed them to improve their 50-year-old mud assortment system.

“The grant program is a really worthwhile program and actually important to the event of Appalachia specifically,” stated Gat Caperton. “I discovered it to be a really worthwhile and broadly efficient factor. I actually recognize it and I like to recommend anybody to comply with it.”

The mission took about eight months to finish, as crews step by step changed the previous system with the brand new one. As a consequence, Gat Creek saved $11,900 in power prices per yr and diminished their electrical energy consumption by 106,971 kilowatt-hours per yr. The new mud system is suitable with their biomass boiler, a earlier mission that was additionally made attainable by a REAP grant. The new mud system permits the corporate to recycle sawdust of their biomass boiler and generate electrical energy from their very own waste.

The REAP grant usually covers 25% of mission prices, making it a big supply of mission funding for corporations like Gat Creek. Through initiatives just like the REAP grant, they enhance their operations, scale back power prices and promote environmental duty.

“The greatest option to create financial change in an space is to carry capital to the world, and that is vital to us in lots of instances,” Caperton stated. “It’s well worth the paperwork, and it is a program I’m grateful for.”

Solar panels fill the roof of a building located on a farm.

Solar panels generate 20 kilowatts of electrical energy at SouthDown Farm. Photo courtesy of Seth Long

Solar has arrived at SouthDown Farm

SouthDown Farm in Ermine, Kentucky, obtained a $7,688 grant from the Rural Energy for America Program in 2020, enabling the family-owned farm to put in a 20-kilowatt photo voltaic array. The set up diminished the farm’s electrical energy prices from $350 to $21.50 monthly.

Grant writing help from the Mountain Association, a nonprofit group working to enhance the economic system of Eastern Kentucky, helped ranchers Seth and Sheryl Long safe REAP funding for the mission.

Covering 55 acres, SouthDown Farm practices natural farming and hosts an annual Maple Day to teach the neighborhood on land stewardship. But Seth Long’s journey with photo voltaic power did not begin right here. She was impressed to use for REAP after her expertise with HOMES, a Kentucky nonprofit that gives reasonably priced housing to low-income households, the place Long serves as government director. Initially skeptical, he acknowledged photo voltaic’s potential amid financial challenges. Witnessing its success, Long continued to assist photo voltaic training and expanded HOMES companies to incorporate photo voltaic set up.

Reflecting on the success of photo voltaic power on his farm and inside his neighborhood, Long emphasised the significance of embracing renewable power options, particularly for small companies.

“This is a method you possibly can scale back your working prices over the subsequent 25 years,” Long stated.

Shepherd’s Whey Creamery

Shepherd’s Whey Creamery, a Martinsburg, West Virginia-based farm, dairy facility obtained a $19,990 grant from the Rural Energy for America Program in 2022.

Supported by this grant, the creamery constructed an energy-efficient chilly storage facility, nicknamed the “cheese cave” by proprietor Suzanne Behrmann. This sustainability mission diminished power consumption by 50%, saving the corporate $1,605 per yr. Maintaining a steady 50°F temperature beneath the creamery grounds, the cave eliminates the necessity for energy-intensive cooling techniques through the use of pure insulation to facilitate the gradual ripening of the creamery cheese.

“One of my passions,” says Behrmann, “helps marginalized communities reconnect with agriculture.” From cheese-making programs to bottle-feeding goats, Shepherd’s Whey provides folks the chance to get nearer to their meals and foster a way of neighborhood. The creamery has been thriving for 13 years, specializing in minimally processed goat’s milk merchandise.

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