This week in Virginia, USDA Rural Development announced eight Rural Energy for America (REAP) grants totaling $107,500.
It’s always an honor to award REAP grants because they help Virginia’s rural businesses by rewarding innovation. The REAP program helps rural businesses and agricultural producers save money, make their operations more energy efficient, and protect the environment.
Knights Gambit Vineyards in Albemarle County received funding to install solar panels, which will offset utility costs for its barn and tasting room. Knights Gambit rents its barn to an animal therapy program for children who are developmentally challenged. The tasting room will open for the first time in March.
Another REAP recipient is Associated Grain in Parksley. The company installed a new energy-efficient grain drying system that is expected to reduce its energy usage by 36 percent.
We’ve been enthusiastic contributors in the rural business realm for many years, and in 2015 we invested more than $2.1 million in Virginia via the REAP program.
One of the highlights from 2015 was a grant for E&S Mart in Altavista. Mike Mattox, Altavista’s mayor, owns E&S Mart, a convenience store/deli/tap room. A former science teacher, he has championed solar’s benefits and possibilities since before his project began. Mattox’s project was completed in April 2015 with the help of USDA Rural Development. This summer his electric bills averaged about $150, an 89% decrease from the year before.
We will continue to invest in renewable energy infrastructure, businesses, innovation and the environment, because, as long as we do, the economy and quality of life in rural Virginia will continue to improve.