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National nonprofit helps West Virginia farms, rural businesses go solar

As part of its ongoing mission to expand solar energy accessibility, Solar United Neighbors (SUN) is introducing “Ready, Set, Solar, REAP!” in West Virginia.

This innovative program is designed to streamline the application process for the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which significantly subsidizes the cost of solar installations for farms and rural small businesses through grants and loans.

The Inflation Reduction Act has notably increased REAP funding, offering an unprecedented chance for rural entities to adopt solar energy. With the USDA now providing four application windows annually, the opportunity for securing solar funding has never been greater.

“Rural West Virginia has a unique opportunity to harness solar energy, reducing operational costs and contributing to a sustainable future,” said Anya Schoolman, executive director of Solar United Neighbors. “Our ‘Ready, Set, Solar, REAP!’ program is a cornerstone for rural businesses contemplating solar power, offering them a comprehensive guide to navigate through the application process.”

Highlighting the program’s potential, Still Hollow Spirits, a distillery nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, exemplifies the successful integration of solar energy into rural business operations. Distiller and owner Athey Lutz leveraged a REAP grant to install a 10,000-kilowatt solar system, transforming his business while embracing sustainability and supporting local agriculture.

“Our distillery’s shift to solar power has not only decreased our energy costs but has also aligned our business practices with our core values of sustainability and community support,” said Lutz. “Solar United Neighbors made navigating the REAP grant process manageable, and I encourage other rural businesses to explore this opportunity.”

Applications for REAP grants are accepted year-round, with the upcoming deadlines on March 31, June 30 and September 30. SUN’s “Ready, Set, Solar, REAP!” program demystifies the application process, providing:

  • A weekly email series introducing the REAP grant process, accompanied by a comprehensive guide.
  • Ongoing, installer-neutral advice and expertise.
  • A supportive community of peers, including SUN staff and previous REAP grant recipients.

SUN has facilitated dozens of successful REAP applications, and offers further assistance through:

  • An on-demand webinar titled ‘REAP Solar Grants & Your Rural Business’, available in both English and Spanish
  • REAP guide in English and Spanish
  • A Solar Help Desk for personalized support
  • A USDA website map tool to check rural business eligibility
  • USDA REAP FAQ (at the bottom of the page)

Those interested can join Ready, Set, Solar, REAP online at

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that works in West Virginia and nationwide to represent the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. Solar co-ops are part of the organization’s mission to create a new energy system with rooftop solar at the cornerstone. Solar United Neighbors holds events and education programs to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment, and advocate for fair solar policies.