Andy Cole of Andy’s Agway holds a solar panel Thursday at his family farm. Shown, from left, are Nick Sampson of ReVision Energy, USDA Rural Development Administrator Bette Brand, Andy Cole and his wife, Valerie.

DAYTON — Andy’s Agway in Dayton will soon have solar-powered electricity, thanks to the help of a federal grant program

The Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in America to construct renewable energy systems and technology, make energy efficiency improvements and participate in energy audits.

Through the program, 12 rural Maine businesses received a total of $156,000 in grants for renewable energy projects.

“So, it’s these and other projects across the country that will help provide rural businesses and agriculture producers the critical renewable energy systems that help them cut costs while contributing to America’s energy independence and environmental quality,” said USDA Rural Development Rural Business and Cooperative Service Administrator Bette Brand at a gathering on Thursday morning at Andy’s Agway, one of the 12 businesses that received a REAP grant.

Andy’s Agway received $14,215 toward the purchase and installation of a 24.96 kilowatt solar PV array. It sells pet and livestock food, hay, plants, and lawn and garden supplies and has been located for 29 years in a renovated barn. Operated by Andy and Valerie Cole, the business is on a farm that has been in the Cole family since the 1880s.

“The future is bright, I believe, for Andy’s Agway and Cole Farms,” said Andy Cole.

The solar panel system is expected to generate nearly 29,000 kilowatt hours or about $2,700 of energy a year.

Nick Sampson, of ReVision Energy, the company installing the solar panels said the solar panels will be installed on the roof of a garage in the early fall. The system has a 25 year warranty and with no moving parts is expected to last up to 40 years.

Sampson said without the grant, the solar project, given tax credits, would have a payback period of about seven years, but with the grant, the payback time will be less.

The grant program makes solar energy “a clear no-brainer” for businesses, said Sampson.

Maine has a solar resource that’s 30 percent greater than Germany’s and equal to that of Houston, said Sampson.

Other businesses in York County that received the grant were Modernist Pantry in Eliot and Foreign Autoworks in Kittery.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at [email protected].

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