Chilbrook Labradors – Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

How Chilbrook Labradors Embraced Solar Power to Fuel Their Passion

In the town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, amidst historical landmarks and natural beauty, lies an unlikely hero in the fight against climate change – Debby Kay, the owner of Chilbrook Labradors. But her contribution to sustainability isn’t just about reducing her carbon footprint; it’s about ensuring the well-being of her beloved four-legged companions while revolutionizing the way we think about energy consumption.

Chilbrook Labradors, established in 1969, has long been renowned for breeding exceptional dogs with a focus on performance tasks such as search and rescue, police work, medical alert, and detection. With an internationally acclaimed program and a legacy of excellence spanning over five decades, Debby Kay has built more than just a business; she has created a legacy of service and dedication to her craft.

However, running a facility that caters to the needs of these remarkable animals comes with its own set of challenges, particularly in terms of energy consumption. With a critical need for a constant power source to maintain optimal conditions for the puppies – a temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit being paramount – Debby Kay found herself grappling with the burden of high energy bills and the environmental impact of traditional energy sources.

In 2014, Debby made a decision that would not only alleviate these challenges but also mark a significant step towards sustainability – she opted to go solar. Partnering with Mountain View Solar, a trusted installer in the region, Debby had 24 solar panels installed on her property. Despite initial concerns about space and placement, the ground-mounted system seamlessly integrated into the landscape, proving to be a quiet, unobtrusive solution to her energy needs.

The decision to embrace solar power wasn’t just about reducing costs; it was a commitment to environmental stewardship and a sustainable future. Debby Kay was determined to lead by example, not just in her industry but in her community as well. Through her dedication to recycling and the use of recycled materials in her operations, she has achieved an impressive milestone of being over 80% recycled.

“Plus, the upkeep is minimal and seamless. It doesn’t cause any noise and once we added it, it blended right in with everything. No issues at all since it was installed,” said Debby.

Panels are producing just as expected. Since they have had the system installed they have not paid an electric bill.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Debby’s journey towards sustainability lies in her approach to funding the solar project. Recognizing the financial constraints of her business, Debby sought assistance through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a federal grant program aimed at supporting renewable energy projects in rural areas. The grant not only made the transition to solar financially feasible but also underscored the importance of government support in facilitating sustainable initiatives.

For Debby, the process of applying for the REAP grant was surprisingly straightforward, thanks in part to her experience in navigating grant applications for various projects over the years. However, she acknowledges the need for clear planning and awareness of the specific needs of the business when embarking on such endeavors. Her advice to other rural businesses considering a similar path is simple yet profound: have a clear plan, understand your needs, and be prepared to ask the right questions.

As Chilbrook Labradors is powering its operations and nurturing its legacy of excellence, Debby Kay stands as inspiration for rural businesses everywhere. Through her unwavering commitment to sustainability and her pioneering spirit, she has not only transformed her own business but has also sparked a movement towards a greener, more sustainable future for all.

In Harper’s Ferry, where history and innovation converge, Debby Kay and Chilbrook Labradors are writing a new chapter – one powered by the sun and fueled by passion, dedication, and a deep love for man’s best friend.

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 farms and rural businesses.

Those interested in assistance can join Ready, Set, Solar, REAP online: Ready, Set, Solar!

As part of the program participants receive:

  • A week of emails introducing the REAP grant process and a REAP guide, followed by an email a week with bite-size to-do’s for the remaining nine weeks
  • Unbiased, installer-neutral advice and expertise
  • Support from a network of peers, including SUN staff and previous REAP grantees 

Additional REAP resources provided by SUN include: