Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry benefitted from grants to help pay for installing solar panels, and your company can, too.

A grant from the Rural Energy for America Program covered 25 percent of the cost of a new solar energy system, and the company commissioned CNC Solar Company to install a 143 kW DC system on the south-facing upper roof of their warehouse in Lewes, Delaware.

Kathy Beisner, the acting director for USDA Rural Development in Maryland and Delaware, toured Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry earlier, and said their mission is to help increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural America.

“One way we do that is through the Rural Energy for America Program that has helped roughly 55 rural small businesses and farmers in Delaware improve their bottom line by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficient equipment,” Beisner said. “Through Federal loan guarantees and grants the program helps cut carbon emissions, creates jobs and saves families hundreds of dollars on their utility bills each year.”

Small businesses across the United States are using USDA financing in innovative ways as a means to create more sustainable communities and the enhancement of economic competitiveness. Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry distributes windows, doors, cabinetry, countertops, millwork products, decking and does installation. Customers include builders, contractors, architects, real-estate agents, and homeowners.

“Small businesses like Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry are the backbone of America’s economy,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), who also visited the company. “Federal grant programs like this one from USDA Rural Development help our nation’s small businesses make investments that allow them to become more energy efficient and boost their bottom line at the same time.”

The 550-panel rooftop system has taken Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry nearly off the grid and provides almost 90 percent of the electricity it takes to operate their offices and warehouse.

Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry’s Director of Sales Marketing, Vincent McDowell said, the local contractor took four weeks to install the 550 panels. The installation required 30,000 square feet of space, and took six months to complete.

McDowell said that one minor challenge was finding the best location for the solar panels. Due to the number of solar panels being installed Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry needed to make sure the roof could hold the weight without causing any structural damage.

Companies have to search for potential incentives, much like a college student needs to explore many possible source of scholarship money. McDowell said that companies should explore state and local grants.

For companies considering this, the first phone call should be to a contractor who could do the work. Next, they should contact their accountant, and then go to their bank for financing.

McDowell said the system builds up credits during the summer months when the solar panels are producing more energy than the company is using. Then during the fall and winter months they get credits from the power company for the additional energy produced in the summer. Typically, around late December they begin to pay for electricity again.

“Solar panels are a wise long term investment, especially if you take advantage of the available grant, federal, and state monies. In addition, solar panels help to reduce your environmental effects on the local ecosystem,” McDowell said.

Mark Woodruff, president of Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry said, “The move made business sense, the savings in electricity, the funding from the USDA Rural development, and tax benefits made sense. When you take all those variables into account the system will pay for itself in six years. Not to mention it’s beneficial to the environment in our local community.”

Company co-owner Richard Reed said, “We had looked at doing the panel’s years ago, but now with the incentives it made sense to move forward with the project.”

For more information on Atlantic Millwork & Cabinetry see www.atlanticmillwork.com and for more information on the USDA Rural Development Grant visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/about-rd/initiatives/sustainable-rural-downtowns-case-studies

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