Rural communities and agricultural industries in Texas are at the forefront of an energy revolution. Two pivotal factors are driving this change: the lower cost of installing renewable energy and the expanded Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The ability to greatly reduce energy costs while also promoting environmental stewardship, economic growth and energy independence across Texas is causing many rural businesses – Hill Country wineries and breweries in particular – to take a new look at going solar. 

The Rise of Solar Energy for Texas Wineries and Breweries

Red Rock Vineyards solar installation by Longhorn Solar

Red Rock Vineyards, Red Rock, Texas

In the world of wineries and breweries, tradition and innovation often blend seamlessly to create products that are as unique as the craftsmen and women who produce them. But for every bottle of wine or pint of beer produced, a significant amount of energy is consumed. As the world moves toward more sustainable practices, wineries and breweries are increasingly turning to solar power to reduce their carbon footprint, cut costs, and ensure the power never goes out on their business.

The adoption of solar power in wineries and breweries is not a trend—it’s a natural evolution. With the rising cost of doing business and the need for more sustainable practices, solar energy offers an efficient and reliable solution. This shift is driven by several factors:

  1. Environmental Responsibility: Wineries and breweries have a vested interest in protecting the environment. Grapes and hops are highly sensitive to climate conditions. Solar power helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure more stable climates for crop growth.
  2. Economic Benefits: Given the high energy consumption in the production processes of both wine and beer, solar energy can provide substantial cost savings. And with grants and loan guarantees, the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program and significant tax credits and incentives, the initial investment in solar power is more affordable today than ever before.
  3. Energy Independence: Solar energy offers rural small businesses, wineries and breweries a degree of energy independence, protecting them not just from the volatility of energy prices but from the increasingly common power outages we’re seeing across Texas. Solar paired with battery backup provides a level of control and independence that is just not possible with grid-supplied power.

How Solar Power Works for Agricultural Businesses

Blanco Veterinary Clinic solar system installed on roof

Blanco Veterinary Clinic, Blanco, Texas

Solar panels, typically installed on rooftops or in ground-mounted arrays, capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. This electricity can then be used to power various operations, from irrigation pumps to cold storage to lighting, heating and bottling.

Solar power can be installed in a number of ways, and customized to each company’s specific needs:

  • Rooftop Solar Systems: Many wineries and breweries have expansive rooftops perfect for solar panel installations. Solar systems maximize unused roof space and provide ample energy to power daily operations.
  • Ground-Mounted Systems: For facilities with more land, ground-mounted solar systems can be an excellent option. The advantages of ground-mounted systems are that they can be built very efficiently, they’re easily accessible, and if designed properly can even provide ample space for growing crops (commonly known as “agrivoltaics’).

Unlocking Renewable Energy Potential with the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)

What is REAP?

Rural Energy for America Logo - Longhorn Solar

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to invest in renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, REAP has been provided an additional $2 billion for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement grants for agricultural producers and rural small business owners. Funding is allocated through 2031 and is dispersed in quarterly allotments through competitive application.

Key Features of REAP

  1. Grants and Loan Guarantees: REAP offers both grants and loan guarantees to cover a portion of the cost of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. Grants can cover up to 50% of total eligible project costs, while loan guarantees can cover up to 75%.
  2. Broad Eligibility: The program is open to a wide range of applicants, including agricultural producers with at least 50% of their gross income coming from agricultural operations and small businesses located in eligible rural areas. This inclusivity ensures that diverse rural enterprises can benefit from the program.
  3. Diverse Energy Projects: REAP supports a variety of renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower. Additionally, energy efficiency improvements can include upgrades to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, insulation, lighting, and more.

How REAP Works

Applying for REAP involves several steps, ensuring that projects meet the program’s criteria and align with its goals. Here’s a simplified overview of the process:

  1. Application Submission: Applicants submit a detailed proposal outlining their project, including technical specifications, financial projections, and expected energy savings or production.
  2. Review and Evaluation: The USDA reviews applications based on various factors, including project feasibility, energy savings, and the applicant’s financial need. 
  3. Funding and Implementation: Once approved, recipients receive grant funds or loan guarantees to implement their projects. They must adhere to program guidelines and complete their projects within a specified timeframe.

Deadlines for REAP Applications

It’s important to note that REAP is a competitive program, and each state considers applications separately. The next deadline for REAP submissions is September 30, 2024.  Longhorn Solar is happy to assist you through the application process.

Next Steps: Building a Sustainable Business

Whether you’re a small boutique or a large-scale brewery, the sun offers a powerful ally in crafting a sustainable future for your business. The transition to solar power is more than a technological upgrade—it’s a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Investing in solar power today ensures that Texas businesses remain resilient, profitable, and environmentally responsible for generations to come. 

For more information on solar for rural businesses and agricultural producers, contact Longhorn’s ag expert, Thomas Cunningham,