By Matt Logan
LaFAYETTE, Ga. — The Blueberry Farm just went green — even greener than it already is.
Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Brad Hoover tightens a clamp on the first row of solar panels at The Blueberry Farm in LaFayette, Ga., on Thursday morning. Hoover, along with father Mike and brother Nick, with Green Point Wind & Solar installed a ground rack system of photovoltaic panels on The Blueberry Farm near LaFayette. Farm owner Joe Kilpatrick says that the 4100 watt array will be tied into the grid and end up making him an estimated $100 a month as his array generates electricity.
With help from Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Green Point Wind and Solar and both the federal and Georgia governments, Joe and Simone Kilpatrick’s farm now is harvesting electricity in addition to its normal crop of blueberries and blackberries.
The farm’s new 4,000-watt solar array was installed Aug. 5, and it’s ready to start producing energy.
Joe Kilpatrick, a TVA retiree who has owned and run the farm since 1997, said he has been interested in “going green” for some time.
“We’re excited for this to finally come together,” he said. “This is a great opportunity. It’s neat to finally be a part of it, instead of just reading about it.”
Kilpatrick applied for and received a $7,750 grant from the USDA and will receive tax credits from both the state and federal governments, plus a $1,000 grant from TVA.
“There is an up-front investment on the buyer’s part, so that’s the difficulty, but it will pay for itself in two and a half years,” he said.
He estimates the upfront investment to be $31,000.
Mike Hoover, of Green Point Wind and Solar in Blue Ridge, Ga., installed the solar panels at the farm, located at 1363 Highway 151.
“Joe can buy electricity for 10 cents per kilowatt-hour and sell it back for 22 cents,” Hoover said. “It will offset all of his electricity costs and it’s good for his farm, the energy company and the environment.
“This is innovative stuff,” Hoover said.
The panels come with a 25-year warranty and require very little maintenance. They have an expected lifetime of 30 to 40 years.
In 2009, Georgia set aside $2.5 million for “go green” energy efficiency incentives, and the allotted money was spent by October, records show. In 2010, the fund was exhausted by May.
Anyone wishing to install solar panels can get the TVA, state and federal tax credits, but the USDA grant is for farms only.