USDA awards Ozarks business $15,000 for energy efficient upgrades

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $237 million to help rural-based businesses lower energy costs.

The Department is providing 640 awards to applicants in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Western Pacific. The USDA is providing the funding through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

One company getting a sliver of the money is Invisible Fence of Springfield. According to REAP documents for 2019, it shows Invisible Fence of Springfield is being awarded more than $15,000 for the installation of a ‘”solar array system.” Cheryl Rust, Owner of Invisible Fence of Springfield, said that money is about 25% of the total cost of the upgrades she is making to her farm.

Rust said going solar is something she was always interested in, but she never knew how financially feasible it was. That's when she connected with local Energy Consultant Jon Speer of Renewable Innovations at an expo.

Speer explained getting started with renewable energy is more doable than ever and comes with lots of benefits, including ownership, tax rebates, and helping the environment.

Speer reviewed the plans they have for the Invisible Fence Springfield farm in Webster County. "They are mono-panels and they are made of a crystalline silicon, it's going right up there on the southern side of her roof," Speer said pointing to the roof of the farm.

Speer added they are also planning to build the farm a solar thermo-collector on the south side of the building. "It radiates heat throughout the night captured by the sun during the day," he said. "Anytime the sun is shining on the southern side of that, the panels are making energy, she's also getting free heat."

Speer encouraged others to make the changes Cheryl and her business are making. "It's money that you are spending that is hurting our environment, you can take the same money, less actually, no money down, put it toward something that you own, that has an end in sight, and the cost is locked in," he explained.

Rust agreed, saying she believes this will pay off in the end, not just for her business, but for the entire community. "I think we're going to have a domino effect where we're really going to have a difference in Southwest Missouri," began Rust. "Is it going to benefit me? Sure. Is it going to benefit another business? Yeah. I think you need to jump into it and do it!"

Rust said she hopes to use the money she will be saving to grow her business.

“Businesses grow and create more jobs when their energy costs are lower,” stated the Deputy under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy.

For a complete list of the companies across the United States that were awarded some of the money from the USDA, click on the link attached to this story labeled 'Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) 2019.'