Clauson Farms – Indiana

How A Rural Indiana Farmer Spurred Savings Through Solar

A REAP grant funded by the Inflation Reduction Act funded solar arrays and triggers tax incentives

At Clauson Farms in north-central Indiana, farming is all but branded in the family DNA. It’s a generational tradition that, for Jeff Bauman, dates back to his grandfather. And with this farming family in particular, they’ve found a way to carry a familial heritage forward while incorporating newer technology that allows their operation to run with greater efficiency and reduce costs.

Most recently, that meant the installation of solar arrays. What started with a single array has grown to four on a rural Rochester farm that is owned and operated by a set of brothers-in-law and their two sons.

“We saw how the first one worked out and it just makes sense financially,” Bauman said of the farm’s journey with solar arrays. “They don’t take up a lot of space or cause trouble. Typically we can utilize parts of our farm that weren’t productive anyways. So, we’re not taking good productive parts of the farm out of service just to have solar panels.”

When New Holland Rochester, Bauman’s local farm equipment supplier, became a dealer for solar arrays, that really helped spur the family’s interest in giving it a try. Dealing with someone they’ve come to trust for years, and learning about federal grant money that was available to help facilitate the purchase of the arrays, helped in the decision-making process.

When presented with a financial assessment for the purchase, Bauman said they realized they would make their money back on the investment within two years. They would do that by applying for a Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant, which totaled about $30,000, and couple that funding with tax incentives earmarked for renewable energy investments.

The REAP program recently received more than $2 billion in funding as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed by the 117th Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.

“The grant money made it affordable,” Bauman said, estimating that the farm has saved more than $5,000 on electricity costs alone on its most recent array. “We sell 100% of the energy we make and buy back what we use.”

The newest solar installation at Clauson Farms, which is a three-array system, provides almost all of the electricity needed for the grain operation there. The farm grows and processes corn and soybeans. They then sell the corn to a biodiesel operation to make ethanol, and they sell the soybeans to a company using them to produce a healthier alternative to canola oil.

Other solar arrays on the farm provide electricity for irrigation pits and a water well, as well as their farmhouse. And they’ve caught the attention of other farmers in town. After all, in Rochester, just about everybody knows everybody, Bauman said. And people have asked him how his family was able to afford the installation.

“We’ve got the grant money and the tax incentives and the energy savings and the depreciation we can use on our taxes as well, and they all play a role. Taxes are a big game for farmers,” Bauman said, noting that he explains his grant writing experience to his neighbors when they ask. “It’s not hard. It’s not fun. It’s monotonous. And it’s pretty detailed. But I went through all the paperwork. It’s something anyone can do, it’s not rocket science. It’s just a matter of digging up information.”

Looking ahead, Bauman said Clauson Farms may have room for additional solar installations in the coming years. The cost savings and the tax incentives just seem to make sense, from a financial perspective, for the farm.

“We are farmers and we live off our land that way, and not for solar panels,” he said. “But, to offset costs, I think solar is something that will continue to happen in the future.”

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed by the 117th Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, is a piece of federal legislation that aims to reduce inflation by lowering the cost of prescription medications, investing in domestic energy production, and promoting clean energy, among other objectives.