- Associated Press - Sunday, July 17, 2016

HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) - The owner of a Timberville-area turkey farm is going green to save green with help from a Pennsylvania-based solar energy company.

Paradise Energy Solutions, which has an office in Harrisonburg, is installing a 173.6-kilowatt solar energy system at Rivermont Farm on Evergreen Valley Road east of Timberville in Shenandoah County.

The farm’s owner, David Hughes, raises 111,000 turkeys per year on the farm. He said the system will produce enough electricity for his home and four turkey houses, cutting his electricity costs from $4,000 or $5,000 a month to almost zero.

“I’ll have my own little power plant,” Hughes said.

How It Works

The system contains 560 310-watt panels, making it the largest solar installation on a poultry farm in the state, according to Paradise Energy.

Joe Sadonis, a consultant with the company who works out of the Harrisonburg office, said the Rivermont system will generate an average of 216,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is just below the farm’s average annual usage.

Based in Gap, Pa., Paradise Energy provides solar systems for businesses, homes and farms in the mid-Atlantic region.

The $500,000 installation will be about three miles northeast of a 557.38-kilowatt Paradise Energy system installed in November at the Windcrest Holsteins dairy farm.

Hughes started planning for the installation in November.

Net metering allows users to carry over excess electricity produced in one month onto future bills in the form of credits.

“Say we have a month of cloudy days,” he said. “I may have to use more than what I produce. I’ll be using from the grid, but I’ll have built up credits from when I overproduced.”

Hughes, 54, said he’ll end each year either owing “a little bit” to Dominion Virginia Power, or with the company owing money to him, depending on the farm’s final consumption total.

Tax Savings

Hughes said his main motivation for pursuing solar power is the federal tax credit he will receive for the system.

“Thirty percent of the total cost I can write off on my taxes,” he said.

Even so, he said, he’ll use his energy savings to pay off the system, which should take about seven years.

“It’s a big upfront cost,” Hughes said. “But they (Paradise) predict a 10 percent return on investment.”

Hughes also has applied for a Rural Energy for America Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could cover 25 percent of the cost.

Sadonis hopes to have the Rivermont system’s base constructed and its panels in place by the end of the month. He said Hughes had to get permission from the New Market Airport to place the system on his land due to concerns over glare.

“The panels will be facing the opposite direction to where planes will be landing, so we got the OK there,” Sadonis said.

While Hughes wants to use his system to educate other farmers about the benefits of solar power, he said “it may not be right for every farmer or situation.”

___

Information from: Daily News-Record, https://www.dnronline.com


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