Not a farmer, but harvesting solar for business

Anne BrockOur Town Outdoors

One of the myths surrounding United States Department of Agriculture programs is that they’re just for farmers. Instead, they’re intended to boost entire communities and local economies.

“I’m not a farmer. But I’m a small business owner,” said Market Street Properties founder Eric Levin from a spot atop the office building he owns in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Levin recently applied and received approval for a 50% Rural Energy for America Grant from the USDA, which he is using to add a new solar array and battery storage to the building, aiming to slash his utility costs.

The USDA REAP grant offers a boost to small business owners in small-town America who want to add renewable energy like solar or just make their properties more energy efficient with features like better insulated windows or a more efficient heating unit.

“Reducing this electric bill really helps on the bottom line,” said Levin. He employed Solar Alliance to design the solar system and install it, also working together on the grant application process. Levin leases the building to the federal government for office space.

“It’s going straight to their bottom line by saving money,” said Solar Alliance Southeast General Manager Jon Hamilton of solar projects involving REAP grant funds.

Levin values sustainability through clean energy as a way to also prepare for a better future for his family through the family business. “I’m not a farmer, but harvesting the sun on a rooftop on a commercial property is my way of contributing.”

Objective 3.1 in the latest USDA Strategic Plan is: “Foster Sustainable Economic Growth by Promoting Innovation, Building Resilience to Climate Change and Expanding Renewable Energy.”

After the looming December 31 deadline for REAP grant applications, the next deadline is for March 31, 2024.

Anne Brock is marketing coordinator for, which provides energy monitoring, solar design, battery backup and pv maintenance of installed systems. Info: 865-221-8349 


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