T&L Fruits and Vegetables – Pendleton County, WV
Lewisburg WV 2017 Solar Co-op
System size: 21 kW
The USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) increases rural small businesses’ ability to access renewable, distributed energy, thereby reducing costs to businesses and strengthening American energy independence. This has positively impacted West Virginia agricultural producers and rural business owners in myriad ways. The following story demonstrates the success of the program in the Mountain State.
Tommye Lou and Richard Rafes went solar as part of Solar United Neighbors’ Lewisburg (WV) Solar Co-op in 2017. They installed a 21kW solar array on their farm with the help of a USDA REAP grant. The 70-panel solar array on their barn supports their grow lights for starting seedlings, high tunnel operations as well as home energy demands. They often get inquiry from other West Virginia agricultural producers for more information about how their solar system supports the success of their farm business – to which Tommye often tells people, “the REAP grant was a deciding factor.”
They were able to pay off their initial investment in 5 years in addition to acquiring a second REAP grant in 2019. This solar array was installed to run circulating fans that enable year-round high tunnel production using geothermal heating. The geothermal high tunnel is the first of its kind in WV.
Going solar opened many doors for Tommye and Richard, year-round production supports T&L’s sustained participation in programs that connect West Virginians to healthy food. T&L provides food to the FARMACY program, which ‘prescribes’ whole foods to help fight chronic disease, like diabetes, in WV. T&L also participates in WVU’s kids’ pop-ups, the senior feeding program in Greenbrier County and will supply produce for an upcoming community Thanksgiving feast.
Tommye is impressed by the various aspects of how the program affects the lives of West Virginians. It is because of REAP (and the solar ITC) that they were able to go solar, support the environment, save more money to grow their business, and give back to the local community. Their solar project also supported job creation for an installation crew who took part in a workforce development training that transitioned former coal miners to become certified in PV installation.
T&L Fruits and Vegetables is a crowning example of how the REAP program’s positive impacts ripple out to enhance the vitality of West Virginia businesses, and the people who operate them.