As part of our commitment to sustainable and socially responsible farming practices, Friends of Family Farmers is providing information and resources on renewable energy options for our members.
Currently, we are focusing on the promotion of photovoltaic solar, as these systems are the easiest to implement, and buildings with good solar access, or farms that have areas for ground-mounted systems, can easily qualify for available incentives and tax credits.
To this end, Friends of Family Farmers has teamed up with Energy Solutions, an Oregon solar installation company, to offer our members and supporters free solar evaluations and financial analyses for their homes and farms. For every project that is ultimately installed, Energy Solutions will make a donation to Friends of Family Farmers.
By teaming up with Energy Solutions on this effort, we hope to provide the education and information you need to decide if solar makes financial sense for your farm, business or home. Energy Solutions can often provide you with a preliminary financial analysis over email prior to a site visit.
Be sure to tell them Friends of Family Farmers sent you!
With experience on over 900 installations across Oregon, we are confident Energy Solutions can help you determine if solar is something worth exploring for your property.
Why Go Solar?
For many farms and businesses, solar can lower long-term operating costs and provide insurance against rising energy rates. For farms, businesses and homeowners who are interested in looking into solar options for their home, we have prepared a starter guide to help in understanding the incentives, tax credits and other funding sources that are available. Solar incentives are calculated based on the system size and the install cost for the project. In Oregon, there are four direct financial benefits, as well as an optional grant program for those businesses that qualify.
Energy Trust of Oregon Cash Incentive
The Energy Trust provides an upfront incentive program that buys down the solar project cost. The incentive rate varies based on system size and utility company. The Energy Trust only serves and provides funding to Pacific Power and PGE customers, so if your electrical service is from another provider, they may or may not have a solar incentive program in place. The current Energy Trust incentive rates vary from $.55/watt installed for smaller commercial projects, to $.20/watt for large commercial solar installations. This upfront incentive represents as much as 25% of the installed cost for the system.
30% Federal Tax Credit
All solar projects, whether residential or commercial, qualify for a 30% Federal Tax Credit. This tax credit amount can be claimed the year of system installation, and any unused portion can be carried forward to future tax years. It is important for the business to have tax liability, or for the tax benefits to be able to pass through to an individual’s tax return with tax liability.
Renewable energy systems qualify for accelerated depreciation on 85% of the project cost. This net benefit amount of depreciation depends on the effective state and federal tax rates for the business.
Reduced Energy Costs
Depending on the system size and electricity use, a solar project may be able to offset as much as 90% of your electricity bill. With system life expected to exceed 25 years, solar can provide long-term savings on operating costs. Typically, a solar installation company will want to do an on-site solar assessment to look at potential array locations, review the existing electrical system, and analyze your electricity bills. They can then provide an accurate financial analysis showing you the system size, cost, and annual energy offset.
Optional USDA – Rural Energy Assistance Program (REAP) Grant
There is an additional funding program for small businesses in rural areas, and farms that derive the majority of their income from agriculture. This grant program is administered by the USDA and can cover up to 25% of the project cost with grant funding. A solar contractor can walk you through the scoring system for the grant applications and determine if your business is eligible. Here is a link to a PDF with more information about the REAP program, and the types of eligible projects that qualify for the grant
Sample Financial Analysis
Energy Solutions has prepared a sample financial analysis for our members and supporters to review. This is similar to the custom analysis they would provide for your home or business if you decide to look into solar.
Energy Efficiency and Other Incentives
In addition to solar, there are other programs available for energy efficiency work that can apply to variable frequency pumps, irrigation, greenhouses, lighting and heating. More information on Ag-specific programs and resources is available through the Energy Trust of Oregon website.