Grant helps Farmers’ Electric answer solar questions
Members of Farmers’ Electric Cooperative have long recognized the expertise of their cooperative’s employees when it comes to energy efficiency. Now those same employees will have new data to help members understand how solar power works and whether it is a viable option for their homes and businesses. Last fall, the cooperative completed work on a 9.75-kilowatt, direct current, ground-mount solar array located behind the cooperative’s office in Chillicothe. The solar panels were designed to be a renewable energy demonstration project for both the employees and members of the cooperative. It allows the cooperative to document the actual operation of a solar array, along with maintenance requirements and the amount of energy actually produced by the panels. Based on the growing level of discussion about solar power in the area, the Farmers’ Electric board and management determined that it would be beneficial to install a solar system to provide information that could be used by those interested in the energy source. Farmers’ Electric applied for a Rural Energy for America (REAP) grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development to help with the cost of the solar array. The grant was approved for $6,335, which provided 25 percent of the estimated cost of the project. REAP grants and loans provide funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Farmers’ Electric previously received a REAP grant for LED lighting in 2015. In December, the array produced 597 kilowatthours, which would equal $62.23 in energy costs. Daily output ranged from a low of 1.8 to a high of 36.2 kilowatt-hours. A typical home on the cooperative’s lines uses 1,104 kilowatt-hours per month, while a typical business uses 10,484 kilowatthours. Farmers’ Electric joins three other Missouri electric cooperatives — Boone Electric, Columbia, Citizens Electric, Perryville and Platte-Clay Electric, Kearney — that have installed solar arrays. You can learn more about the Solar 101 project at www.fec-co.com/content/solar-101-demonstration-project.