Harvey Allen isn’t the kind of man who wastes time. His ranch and well service in the tiny community of Elfrida, Ariz., mean early mornings, long days and little leisure. But it’s not unusual lately to find him spending time staring at the meter of his ranch’s new photovoltaic (PV) electric system. He just can’t seem to get enough of watching that gauge!

USDA Rural Development recently made a $49,975 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant to Allen so he could install photovoltaic water pumps at his ranch…and the results have been, well, worth watching!

“We were at a point where we just couldn’t afford to grow anymore,” Allen said. Utility costs were making it hard for him to keep his business profitable. The REAP grant covered about a quarter of the cost of the PV system. Allen covered the rest of the cost. Even with that investment, Allen is already realizing savings. He says the system has cut his utility costs by half.

“I don’t think I could have continued the operation here without this system and this help,” he added.

Allen’s meter shows how much electricity he is generating and adding to the grid and how much he is using. By the second time he irrigated his oats with the new system, he checked the meter and discovered that he actually had a credit!

That was enough to turn him into a meter watcher.

The REAP program was designed to assist farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses in developing renewable energy systems and in making energy-efficiency improvements to their operations.

This project is a perfect example of how REAP can make the difference for a small rural business…and with Arizona’s abundant sunshine, there’s no better place or better incentive to stop in the shade and watch the meter spin a while!