Solar for farms and rural small businesses

sheep grazing by solar array
Photo credit: the American Solar Grazing Association
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Solar offers a number of benefits for farms. Of course, like all businesses, the farm will benefit from tax savings thanks to programs like the Solar Investment Tax Credit. But that is only the beginning. Going solar helps you lock in your energy costs by taking control of the source of the power. With so many variables and challenges facing today’s farmers, having a fixed cost for electricity is a significant bonus. In some cases, the farm can turn the solar energy it produces into revenue by selling power back to the local energy provider. You can learn more about this option when you speak to local solar companies that are installing these systems in your community.

Finding A Solar Company To Help You Move Into The Future

In addition, solar power is the energy source of the future. As you consult with local solar companies, you will surely hear that now is a great time to go solar. The cost of going solar has dropped more than 60% over the last decade. There are also many new solar companies to work with to complete the project more rapidly and cost-effectively. The growth of the solar industry and each additional solar company that joins the industry creates added competition, added quality, and lower prices for consumers, such as a family-owned farm or a larger commercial farm.

Easy System Care From Your New Solar Company

Finally, solar companies are eager to show potential customers how easy it is to maintain their solar equipment. Unlike other farm equipment, no one needs to be present to operate the system. And in areas with enough rain to sustain crops, that same rain will do the job of cleaning your solar panels regularly. In addition, this proven technology comes with excellent warranties and customer support from the solar company that installed the system and the solar company that manufactures the components.

Understanding Potential Grants And Loans For Your Solar Project

The USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) offers grants and loans to make solar more affordable. These grants are for up to 50% of the system cost and loans are available through a competitive application process. The Inflation Reduction Act quadrupled funding for the program. The USDA has also increased the number of application windows per year to four (quarterly) through 2024. This means there is more opportunity to secure funding to add solar to your farm or rural business. Grant funding can also be combined with the Federal Tax Credit and the accelerated depreciation (MACRS). Both are available to businesses installing solar energy equipment. This is why we’ve developed a first-of-its-kind guide to help you apply for the program. 

Paying for solar

There are two ways you can pay for solar, depending on where you live:

  • Direct ownership
  • Third-party ownership (if available in your state)

Direct ownership means you, the farm owner, will purchase the system for your property. You will own all of its electrical output. Direct ownership of a system makes sense for your farm, if:

  • you are able to raise funds for the cost of the project
  • can pay cash up front, or 
  • get access to specific state incentives and grants.

Under third-party ownership, a separate entity owns and operates the solar system. These entities could be a solar developer or a group of community investors. You would then pay the third party for the monthly electricity produced by the solar system. The third party will benefit from the federal tax credit and any additional incentives. They then pass the savings on to you. Third-party ownership is only available in certain states. See the list here.

Solar Companies Help Support Your Commitment To The Planet

As a business dependent on the planet and its health to survive, you are sure to be interested in working with other companies who also support protecting the environment. Converting your farm to solar power is the next step in protecting your business and the future of our planet. If you are a family farm, think of your investment in solar as a gift to future generations.

As you work with a single solar company or multiple solar companies to create the perfect solar plan for your current farm and the possibility of expansion in the future, you will be promoting an ongoing environmentally friendly power resource for your business. You will also ensure that your business and farm’s impact on the planet is as safe and green as possible. Not only are you demonstrating your commitment to protecting the environment as a pillar of the community, but you are also working to better protect the planet that is supporting your business.

How we can help you go solar

Tommye Lou Rafes of T.L. Fruits and Vegetables in Caldwell, West Virginia, shows off her solar-powered produce.
Tommye Lou Rafes of T.L. Fruits and Vegetables in Caldwell, West Virginia, shows off her solar-powered produce.

We are a nonprofit, not a solar installer or sales company. Our experts are unbiased and independent. Our Solar Help Desk can help you review installer proposals. We can answer questions like:

  • How much will my solar system cost?
  • Should I install a rooftop or ground mounted system?
  • How can I finance my solar project
  • How do I choose an installer?
  • What permits and approvals will I need?

If you decide that you would like more support, we offer consulting services. We’ll advise and advocate for you throughout the entire process. We can provide expert, vendor-neutral information to help you understand your options and compare proposals from solar installers. We also help identify and apply for grant opportunities and guaranteed loan-financing programs available for agricultural producers.

Our team is ready to help you qualify for financing assistance for your solar energy projects.



Make a tax-deductible donation today to Solar United Neighbors to help more people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.

“The REAP program was a deciding factor.” Tommye Rafes, who went solar as part of Solar United Neighbors’ Lewisburg (WV) Solar Co-op in 2017. Tommye and her husband Richard installed a 21kW solar array on their farm, TL Fruits & Vegetables, with the help of a USDA REAP grant. She estimates the investment will pay for itself within about six years.


“[REAP] could be an answer to more rural businesses trying to stay in business.” Debby Kay of Chilbrook Kennels in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Kay used REAP funding to add a 7.2kW ground-mounted solar array and battery storage to her business in 2017.


“We wouldn’t have done it without the REAP grant.” Jennifer Kahly of Possum Tail Farm in Terra Alta, West Virginia. Jennifer and her husband used REAP to add a 18.3kW rooftop solar array and an Electric Vehicle charger for customers to their farm in 2018.


  • Ready, Set, Solar! – Sign up for this timed, email-based series that leads you step-by-step through taking your organization solar.
  • Get help going solar with USDA REAP grant funding. Download our REAP guide (English & Spanish). 
  • Learn more about USDA REAP with our webinar recording (English and Spanish).
  • Contact the Solar Experts at our Solar Help Desk to get hands-on support. 
  • USDA website map to see if your rural business is in an eligible area (NOTE: Qualifying farms are available regardless of location).
  • USDA REAP FAQ (at the bottom of the page)
  • USDA State Energy Coordinator contact list
  • REAP Success Stories from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC)
  • The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) On-Farm Energy Initiative provides financial assistance for farmers and ranchers to analyze energy use and improve energy efficiency on the farm.
  • The Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council’s REAP Grant Assistance Program provides no-cost technical REAP grant writing assistance to help eligible small businesses and agricultural producers invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
  • The Colorado Energy Office’s Agricultural Energy Efficiency (AgEE) program provides a turnkey approach – including a no-cost energy audit and technical assistance – to help Colorado ag producers increase on-farm economic and environmental sustainability.
  • Minnesota‘s Clean Energy Resource Teams connect farmers with the resources they need to save energy and take advantage of renewable energy resources like solar.