Douglas County Businessman Reaps Harvest From Solar Energy
From their small farming operation in west-central Nevada at the foot of the silvery white Sierra Nevada, Ed and Linda Kleiner can see a long way.
Ed can see a future where his grapes finally grow into sturdy vines that produce. Linda can see a time when the 1851 barn they are rebuilding really DOES become their home.
But another thing the Kleiners already can see is about $3700 a year in energy savings, from their 9 kilowatt photo voltaic solar system. The 25-foot long solar panel was funded in part through a USDA Rural Development energy grant. With a total monthly energy bill of $9 a month, Ed credits the low cost of solar power with helping him to survive the recent economic downturn.
“The recession has hit us, but not as bad as it would have, if we were paying a normal energy bill,” Kleiner said. His bill, which had averaged $230 a month prior to solar, now averages $8 a month, using the sun-thirsty system, which produces 50-60 kWh per day.
The Kleiners own and operate Comstock Seed on SR 88 just north of the California state line. Their business operations involve collecting native seed from desert plants like sagebrush, arrowleaf, bitterbrush and penstemon.
They have seed collectors scattered around the western U.S. who collect the seed, and send the raw material back to Douglas County for processing. Traditionally, native seed has been used for reclamation efforts after mining operations, but increasingly the Kleiners are seeing demand for drought resistant landscaping, reseeding ski areas, and for metropolitan uses where a more native look is needed. The highest energy consumer for the business is the high powered seed cleaning machine Kleiner uses to turn 100 pound bags of sage brush into 15 pound bags of pure gold seed. At $80 a pound, that’s a worthwhile endeavor.
The total cost of the solar project was $82,000. USDA RD provided a $19,995 grant, and was the guarantor for Wells Fargo’s $20,250 loan on the project. Kleiner says the NV Energy tax incentives that were then available to offset the costs for solar powered systems continue to help his bottom line. Currently NV Energy continues to supply incentives to offset the installation costs of hydropower and solar thermal systems, but the solar photovoltaic program is now fully subscribed and has closed. For information, visit the RenewableGenerations website at https://www.nvenergy.com/renewablesenvironment/renewablegenerations/
Kleiner’s farming operations currently puts more energy back to the grid than he uses, accruing credits in the summer and using them during the winter when the cloudy skies reduce solar production.
“Our maximum production is in the spring, when the air and the panels are clean,” Kleiner said. Washing the panels to reduce dust maintenance is the biggest maintenance issue for the solar panels, though a bit of weed-eating now and then is necessary to clear out any tall brush that might shade the panels.
Kleiner shows the box that houses the inverters for the system, which show that the solar panel has kept 132,877 pounds of Co2 from entering the atmosphere over the past three years. That is the amount of Co2 that would have entered the atmosphere from a traditional electric generating system.
USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program notice of funding will soon be published. To learn more about REAP funding for alternative energy systems, visit the USDA RD Energy page at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/nvreapprogram.html or contact Energy Coordinator Mark Williams at (775) 887-1222, Ext. 116.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $181 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.