April 2016 Renewable Energy Farm Walks – CDB Farm and Badger Mountain Vineyard

Wind Energy on the Farm at Caldwell Davis Bassetti (CDB) Farm
April 4, 2016
Goldendale (Klickitat County)

Solar Energy on the Farm at Badger Mountain Vineyard
April 25, 2016
Kennewick (Benton County)

In April 2016 Seattle Tilth hosted two renewable energy farm walks, with one farm walk emphasizing wind energy on the farm and one emphasizing solar energy on the farm. These were the third and fourth farm walks in the renewable energy farm walk series, which is an exciting partnership with Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (Northwest SEED), to bring our community a series of farm walks focused on renewable energy. These farm walks are supported by an Environmental Justice Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Northwest SEED is a Seattle-based organization that works to create communities that are powered by locally controlled clean energy solutions. They do this by providing technical assistance, education, advocacy, and implementation of clean energy projects.

April 4th, 2016 was a perfectly windy afternoon in Goldendale—at least the wind was perfect for the 36 farmers, community members and service providers gathered at the Caldwell Davis Bassetti Farm (known locally as CDB Farm) to learn about wind energy on the farm. Ranch manager Ted Wilkins greeted attendees and farm owner Gwen Bassetti provided an introduction to the ranch and shared how she arranged for the installation of the wind turbine that supplies power to CDB Farm and is a visual symbol of the farm on the landscape. Gwen shared apple cider from her orchard of 100 Spokane Beauty apple trees, the apples from which are used in pastry treats at Grand Central Bakery in Seattle and Portland, founded by Gwen in 1989.

On the southern slope of Badger Mountain in Kennewick (Benton County) sits Badger Mountain Vineyard, the first certified organic winegrape vineyard in Washington State. On April 25, 2016 Badger Mountain Vineyard welcomed 24 growers, community members and renewable energy experts for a tour of their solar array and presentations about solar energy for the farm. Co-owner Greg Powers and operations manager Estela Romjue welcomed attendees and shared with the group how Bill Powers (the vineyard’s founder and Greg’s father) originally decided to turn to organic growing methods. Greg Powers shared some of the ways they maintain a sustainable operation, including their organic production and pest management methods and the decision to install the solar array that sits atop of the winery’s barrel house.

At both of the April renewable energy farm walks Mia Devine, Northwest SEED Project Manager, facilitated a group of presentations on renewable energy for the farm. Presentations included the benefits of renewable energy, financial incentives available, and how to determine what type of renewable energy is a good fit for one’s farm or ranch.

Jonathan Lewis of Hire Electric, based out of The Dalles and the Tri Cities, was on hand at both farm walks to lead tours of the wind turbine at CDB farm and of the solar installation at Badger Mountain Vineyard. Jonathan led both farm walk groups through a discussion of how to determine if wind or solar energy is feasible for one’s farm or ranch, based on the amount of wind (or sun) and other factors. Jonathan was very helpful in explaining the basics of wind and solar energy, including terminology, system set-ups, logistics for installation, reading the meter, and maintenance.

Sonia Hall, of Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources in Wenatchee joined both April renewable energy farm walks to talk about climate change. Sonia presented on the impact of climate change for agriculture and some of the ways farmers and ranchers can adapt to and mitigate climate change through their operations.

Both April farm walks included a presentation by Roni Baer, representing USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). USDA REAP guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Roni introduced REAP and the types of funding offered by the program. She walked attendees through how to apply for the program and the types of cost savings it can provide. REAP can provide loan guarantees on loans up to 75% and grants for up to 25% of total eligible project costs for qualifying agricultural producers and small businesses. One must apply to the program, and although applications are accepted year round, the application deadline for the next funding cycle is November 2016. More information can be found at www.rd.usda.gov/wa.

Representatives of Umpqua Bank attended both April farm walks to present on the financial options available for renewable energy loans from Umpqua Bank’s Greenstreet Lending program, which offers consumer loans or home equity lines of credit for renewable energy projects. Umpqua Bank is one of several financial institutions offering low-interest loans for renewable energy projects. Other lenders include Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union’s EnergySmart Loans and Generations Credit Union’s Solar Cash Flow Loan.

Mia Devine provided more details about incentive programs to pay for solar installation. Along with USDA REAP other incentives include federal tax credits, Washington Solar Production Incentive, and MACRS Depreciation. Mia explained that a farmer or small business owner could save as much as 65-75% off of the initial cost of a renewable energy installation after the first year (depending on the county), by taking advantage of all programs and incentives and accounting for the energy not being purchased. Mia also utilized a very helpful graph to explain the number of years it would take until a solar or wind project completely pays for itself, depending on the financial incentives and programs one qualifies for and initial project costs, which could be in as little as under five years (depending on a number of factors).

The renewable energy farm walk series started with two farm walks in Western Washington in October 2015, both of which took place on farms with solar energy. The first farm walk in this series took place in October 2015 at Broad Leaf Farm in Everson (Whatcom County), a 10-acre certified organic farm owned and operated by Dusty and Leslie Williams that utilizes a 8.6 kW solar electric system. The second farm walk in the series took place at Tahoma Farm in Orting (Pierce County), a certified organic vegetable farm owned by Dan and Kim Hulse, and operated with a large solar array atop of one of the old livestock barns remaining from a former dairy operation. A detailed summary of these farm walks and the booklets for each are available at tilthproducers.org.

The renewable energy farm walks have been very informative, showing that renewable energy systems can be a good option for farmers and ranchers in Washington and that taking advantage of cost incentives can help make this option more affordable. There are plenty of local manufacturers and installers to choose from in Washington State.

On Wednesday, October 5, 2016 Seattle Tilth and Northwest SEED will host the fifth and final farm walk in the series, solar energy on the farm at Rents Due Ranch in Stanwood (Snohomish County), supported by the Washington State Department of Commerce. This farm walk is free to attend and will start off at 10:00 am at the Stanwood PUD office, where attendees will gather to hear presentations and discuss how to pursue solar energy for their farm. Farm walk attendees will then caravan to Rents Due Ranch to tour the solar installation. Joan Schrammeck of Fire Mountain Solar, based in Mt. Vernon, will be there to explain the solar array and answer questions.

More Information on Renewable Energy:
For help getting started with renewable energy technologies for your farm or ranch, including information on how to determine if renewable energy is a good option for your property and free technical assistance for farmers and rural small businesses in Washington, contact Mia Devine at Northwest SEED by emailing , calling 206-267-2213, or visit: www.nwseed.org.

To view the farm walk booklet for CBD Farm, click here.

To view the farm walk booklet for Badger Mountain Vineyard, click here. 

Summary by Sarah Lowry, WA FarmLink Program Manager.

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These farm walks provided in partnership with Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (NW SEED) with support from an Environmental Justice Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.