Arizonans are enjoying our famously perfect spring weather, and new federal clean energy investments are already on their way to Arizona pockets.
The sweeping package of clean energy tax credits and funding programs known as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) may not be top of mind for every Arizonan right now, but it should be. We all stand to benefit immensely from the new jobs and energy savings it is already bringing to our state. Take the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for example.
REAP might be one of the unsung heroes of the IRA. Many are familiar with the clean energy tax credits included in the bill, like the 30% tax credit for rooftop solar or battery storage. But, unless you own a farm or rural small business, odds are you have never heard of REAP.
REAP is a federally funded grant and loan program that helps farmers and rural small-business owners access renewable and efficient energy technologies. The federal government established the program through the Farm Bill in 2002. Since then, REAP has helped thousands of businesses afford solar panels and other clean, money-saving technologies, such as high efficiency heating and cooling systems.
Solar can be a game-changer for farms and rural small businesses. It offers energy choice and security. Going solar means lower energy bills and the ability to control energy costs long-term.
I recently spoke with Ron Tolman, who owns a small printing and signs business in Safford. Thanks to a REAP grant, Ron was able to add solar canopies to his business’ parking lot, which are now providing most of the power his company uses. With solar supplying most of his monthly energy needs, Ron has been able to nearly eliminate electricity costs for his business.
One of the most exciting things about the IRA is that it quadrupled funding for REAP over the next ten years. With four times the money to go around, more Arizona farms and businesses could win a federal grant to go solar. The grants can also be much larger than previously allowed, which could bring the cost of solar within reach for many more family farms and rural small businesses. REAP grants used to be capped at 25% of a project’s total cost – that cap is now up to a whopping 50%.
With huge swaths of rural areas and a strong agricultural economy, communities across Arizona could see a lot more folks like Ron bringing home the benefits of REAP grants. That would be a huge victory. More solar would help Arizona’s farms and rural small businesses thrive in the communities that rely on them. That means more dollars re-invested into those communities, more jobs in Arizona’s growing solar industry, and cleaner air.
Now is the time for eligible Arizona businesses to take advantage of this opportunity and apply for a REAP solar grant. The program holds four quarterly application cycles per year, but applications can be submitted any time throughout the year. The current application window is through June 30. Since we at Solar United Neighbors aim to make solar more accessible to all, we just put out a new guide that walks through the REAP application process, step by step.
Even if a REAP grant is not in the cards for you personally, this program is something we should all want to protect. Our representatives in Congress have the opportunity to further improve and bolster the program through this year’s Farm Bill, which would ensure benefits for Arizona farms, small businesses, and rural communities for years to come.
Adrian Keller is Arizona program director for Solar United Neighbors.