Tahoma Farms Solar: Good Economic Sense
In 2009 Dan and Kim Hulse purchased one of three parcels at Orting Valley Farms, a 100-acre former dairy preserved by the PCC Farmland Trust in collaboration with the Washington State Wildlife & Recreation Program and Pierce County Conservation Futures Program. The PCC Farmland Trust secured a conservation easement on the land, ensuring that it is saved for organic production forever and making it affordable to a new generation of farmers. Dan and Kim chose “Tahoma Farms” as the name for their 40-acre parcel in homage to the Native American name for Mount Rainier, which rises majestically 30 miles to the southeast.
Dan was initially interested in solar to power an irrigation pump that was too far from the existing electrical grid. He contacted Spark Northwest (then known as Northwest SEED) to inquire about different options for his situation. That’s when Dan learned that it would be a better economic investment to install a much larger grid-connected solar electric system. In addition to a 30% federal tax credit and business depreciation benefits, Dan received a 25% grant from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and receives about $5,000 a year in Washington State production incentive payments. The farm also gets to use the solar-generated electricity, reducing annual operating expenses.
Although Tahoma Farm’s 9.7 kW solar electric system cost over $50,000 up-front, Dan was able to secure a zero-money-down, low-interest loan from his bank, Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union. With the grant, tax benefits, and state incentive, Dan will be able to enjoy the benefits of solar equipment that comes with a 25 year warranty. Not all farm investments make such good economic sense.
Tahoma Farms is committed to organic production practices, including long-term crop rotations, planting green manures, and utilizing compost to build the soil. In the same way that they are growing a sustainable farm, Dan and Kim are growing a business that will strengthen the local food economy and nourish their community for years to come. They are proud that solar energy is now a part of both their environmental and business sustainability efforts
Spark Northwest provides technical assistance and grant-writing support for farmers and rural small businesses interested in renewable energy or energy efficiency.
If you are interested in a project for your farm or business, please let us know by completing the intake form below. The information you provide will help us identify next steps for your project and to determine which grants and incentives your project may be eligible to receive. Once we review this information, we will follow up with next steps.