2016 26.3 Spring Farm Walk Review

Wind & Solar Energy on the Farm
Visiting CDB Farm and Badger Mountain Vineyard


Seattle Tilth hosted two renewable energy Farm Walks in April, part of an exciting partnership with Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (Northwest SEED), and supported by an Environmental Justice Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The walks are part of series of five Farm Walks highlighting the how-to of farm-scale renewable energy solutions and showcasing Washington farms with impressive solar and wind energy systems in operation.

The 2016 walks kicked off April 4 on a perfectly windy afternoon in Goldendale, when 36 farmers, community members, and service providers gathered to learn about the wind turbine that powers Caldwell Bassetti Farm (known locally as CDB Farm). Farm owner Gwen Bassetti shared—along with apple cider from her orchard of one hundred Spokane Beauty apple trees—how she arranged for the installation of the wind turbine that has now come to symbolize the farm on the landscape. On April 25, Badger Mountain Vineyard, the first certified organic wine grape vineyard in Washington, welcomed a group of 24 participants on a tour of their solar array, which sits atop of the winery’s barrel house. The use of solar energy at Badger Mountain vineyard carries forward the original commitment to whole farm sustainability that was made by vineyard founder Bill Powers.

For farmers wanting to adopt renewable energy solutions, these Farm Walks offered an important opportunity to see system implementation at work and to hear from farmers and service providers about feasibility, costs, savings, and challenges. In addition to touring the installations, Northwest SEED Project Manager Mia Devine facilitated presentations on factors to consider in developing farm renewable energy. Jonathan Lewis of Hire Electric led groups through a discussion of how to determine if wind or solar energy is feasible for one’s farm or ranch and explained the basics of wind and solar energy—including terminology, system set-ups, installation logistics, meter reading and maintenance.

Addressing funding options, Mia Devine and other guest speakers introduced a variety of cost-share incentive and financing programs—including the USDA-REAP program, federal tax credits, Washington Solar Production Incentive, and MACRS Depreciation—which could save as much as 65-75% off of the initial cost of a renewable energy installation after the first year.

USDA representative Roni Baer explained the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which can provide loan guarantees for up to 75% and grants for up to 25% of total eligible project costs for qualifying agricultural producers and small rural businesses. (The application deadline is November 2016; www.rd.usda.gov/wa). Mia also provided resources to determine the number of years it would take a solar or wind project to completely pay for itself, depending on specific project factors.

A crucial point driven home by guest speaker Sonia Hall of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources is that renewable energy on the farm goes well beyond simple dollars and cents. Adopting solar and/or wind systems is one of the ways that farmers and ranchers can adapt their practices to mitigate climate change impacts and contribute to regional—as well as farmscale—sustainability.

On Wednesday, October 5, 2016, Seattle Tilth and Northwest SEED will host the fifth and final event in the series, addressing solar energy on the farm at Rents Due Ranch in Stanwood (Snohomish County). Sponsorship of this free Farm Walk is by the Washington State Department of Commerce and begins at 10:00 am at the Stanwood PUD office. After presentations and discussion about how to pursue solar energy on the farm, attendees will travel to Rents Due Ranch to tour the solar installation. Joan Schrammeck of Fire Mountain Solar based in Mount Vernon will explain the solar array and answer questions.

Sarah Lowry , Seattle Tilth FarmLink Program Manager. .
Elizabeth Murphy, Seattle Tilth Farm Programs Director. .

To learn about renewable energy technologies for your farm or ranch and free technical assistance for farmers and rural small businesses in Washington, contact Mia Devine at Northwest SEED: , 206-267-2213 or visit nwseed.org.

Tags: Badger Mountain Vineyard, Caldwell Bassetti Farm, EPA, Farm Walk, Northwest SEED, Renewable Energy, USDA Renewable Energy for America Program