Jun. 26—ATHENS — Solar energy is powering a Limestone County storage unit facility and a poultry farm after the owners obtained federal grants to install solar panels.
Buddy Carter, owner of Midpointe Storage, said the panels he installed on the roofs of his storage units are producing three times the energy he needs for his units, most of which are climate-controlled.
"We're actually sending more power into the grid ... than we're using," Carter said. "So, we have room for developing other buildings and facilities."
Midpointe Storage and McPherson Farms, chicken houses owned by Ben McPherson, both received grants for solar panels from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The projects were funded through the USDA's Rural Energy for America Program. USDA spokesman Calvin Burroughs Jr. said the program is "designed to help reduce energy consumption and to help rural businesses and agricultural producers."
Nivory Gordon Jr., state director of Alabama for USDA Rural Development, said there is money available for these projects and it needs to be utilized. He said the Limestone grants were issued in late 2021 and the projects were completed in the last couple of months.
"These types of things are a win-win here in Limestone County for our businesses and the environment. The more energy efficient we can be, the cleaner our environment will be in years to come," he said.
Carter is now running his storage unit facility and recreational vehicle and boat storage entirely with solar energy. It is located east of Athens near U.S. 72 and Mooresville Road.
Gordon said Carter's grant was $249,624 and the solar project will "reduce the company's energy usage by 350,299 kilowatt-hours per year, which is a savings of 100%." He said the panels are producing enough energy to power 32 homes. An average home uses 10,715 kilowatt-hours per year.
The storage facilities are on 17 acres that Carter plans to develop into Midpointe Business Park. With the extra solar energy he is producing, Carter believes he has enough energy to also power any buildings he develops on his property.
"We have a 50,000-square-foot self-storage facility and about 67% of that is climate controlled," Carter said. He said the solar panels are just on the roofs of the 18,000-square foot RV and boat storage units, but provide power for the self-storage units.
Carter said he did not initially plan to use solar power but has always been eco-friendly.
"I do believe that solar is the future. Renewable energy, we're going to be there one day," Carter said. "I wouldn't have been able financially to do the solar without the grant."
McPherson's agricultural operation is on nearly 150 acres and is located at 17443 Sledge Road, about 9 miles west of Athens. His chicken houses are projected to run almost entirely off the energy from the panels the grant allowed him to install on his property. The panels are in a field next to his chicken houses.
"We were going to put them on the roof but with as much weight as the roof of a poultry barn holds and structural concerns, we decided to put them out in the field," McPherson said.
He received a USDA grant of $16,650.
Gordon said he expects the solar panels, which are producing enough power for three homes, to lower the farm's energy cost by 55%.
McPherson is looking forward to the savings.
"We're excited to get the bill here at the end of June that kind of reflects using less power off the grid," he said.
McPherson said he installed the solar panels for two reasons. One is to save money. The other: "Renewable energy, I think that's what the future's coming to, so we try to get ahead of it a little bit."
—email@example.com or 256-340-2460.