Farmers, small businesses have eco-friendly options


St. Paris area graduate setting up renewable projects locally

By Casey S. Elliott - celliott@civitasmedia.com



A small business or farmer interested in being more eco-friendly can get up to 75 percent of a renewable energy project funded by the government.

The projects, ranging from solar panel installation to biomass systems, can be paid off within an estimated four years because of the tax credits and grants available, Solar Power & Light Project Development Director Brett Henderson said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is offering a 25 percent grant for the installation of a renewable energy system. Another 50 percent is paid back by the Federal Investment Tax Credit, which is good through the end of 2016, Henderson said. Businesses and farmers can claim depreciation on the system, warrantied to last 25 years, but expected to last between 30 and 40 years.

The additional financial incentives make renewable energy projects more economical for small businesses and farmers, who could see the projects pay for themselves within four years. Without the credits and grants, it could take an estimated 11 years for the projects to pay off, he said.

“When a customer is looking at an 11-year payback, especially for a business, that’s a long time,” Henderson said. “With a four-year payback, farmers can see it as a long-term investment. For the right small business that plans on being around, it is a great investment and a great hedge against rising energy costs, which I think we are all pretty aware are coming.”

Henderson, a Graham High School graduate who grew up in St. Paris, hopes to help area small business owners and farmers with their own eco-conscious projects.

Henderson said the USDA grant is aimed at smaller businesses and farm projects, not massive ones for large cities or corporations. The grant application gives points for small businesses, those owned or co-owned by minorities or women, for example.

Solar Power & Light has completed projects for St. Paris village, the city of Xenia, the city of Cincinnati, Antioch College and a variety of other businesses and organizations nationwide, Henderson said. The business also designs “solar signs,” another way for a company to use the sun to power operations.

Henderson and Solar Power & Light are working on a project for Henderson Land Investment Company on Scioto Street and East Lawn Avenue in Urbana. The business, owned by Henderson’s parents, also has a location in St. Paris. The Urbana location was remodeled within the past few years, and it was the light shining in the south-facing windows that sparked the idea for a solar project.

E. Lee Henderson, Brett’s mother, said they thought having an awning, that could serve as both a power generator and shade creator, would be a great way to accomplish the solar project.

“As far as we know, no one has done a solar awning,” she said. “My son and his company are designing and building it. This will make some shade, but also create electricity. We’re trying to be environmentally conscious.”

E. Lee Henderson added she wanted to have a positive impact on the community, and she believed demonstrating conservation was a good way to do so.

“I believe that all conscious businesses and their owners must hold the intention of having a positive impact on their community in every possible way. I believe that choosing to use and conserve clean energy is a way of contributing to the common good. We drive hybrid vehicles and we recycle 90-plus percent of what we use as responsible stewards of our community and the earth,” she said. “The financial benefits are secondary in my mind.”

The Henderson Land project is in the permitting stage; Henderson said he expects installation will occur by mid-August. The company’s other location in St. Paris is not in a good location for a solar project, E. Lee Henderson said.

Projects may take a couple months, depending on how long it takes to hear back on the grant application and get the materials ordered, he said. Henderson said an example of the cost can range from $21,000 for the Henderson Land Company project to $500,000, depending on the size of the system. Those costs are the total cost before grants and tax credits are received, he said.

Solar Power & Light staff do all the work, from discussing with the owner electricity needs to designing and installing the renewable energy system, Henderson said. Staff will fill out and submit the grant application and assist with any other issues that crop up during the project.

Henderson added the USDA grant deadline is twice a year, in April and November. It can take 30 days after the grant deadline to find out if a project has been approved for a grant, he said.

For more information, call Henderson at 937-259-1316 or email him at bhenderson@splsolar.com.

St. Paris area graduate setting up renewable projects locally

By Casey S. Elliott

celliott@civitasmedia.com

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.