Case study: Breeden’s Orchard fills up farm store roof with panels
Andrew and Brian Dorfman, along with their wives, Aimee and Wendy, might be best known for their ownership of 9 comedy clubs across the country, including the legendary Zanies in Nashville. Now, they are also the proud new owners of Breeden’s Orchard in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Tommy and Marynell Breeden operated their orchard for 45 years and sold the property to the Dorfmans last year. While there is an obvious connection between comedy clubs and orchards (duh!), Andrew explains their new venture as an expansion of who they are when they are not in the clubs.
“We’ve always been outdoorsy people with gardens, chickens, and tractors,” says Dorfman. “But our goal with Breeden’s Orchard goes beyond apples (and peaches, pears, plums, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, bees and cattle) to our desire to build up the community and educate kids on how to be good stewards of the Earth,” he says.
The Dorfmans knew they wanted to generate solar energy at Breeden’s Orchard, just like Aimee and Andrew do at their home. At Breeden’s, LightWave Solar maxed out the farm store rooftop with 144 solar panels, and the 50kW system covers over 100% of the current electric use. They expect to use more electricity as they expand cultivation and hold special events, such as weddings, as well as community and school events.
“We see our property as a place to host kids from all walks of life, both for those who have never seen fruit grow on a tree and for those who want to hone their agriculture skills,” says Dorfman.
Solar education will be incorporated to highlight its positive impact. Out on the farm store patio, near the solar inverters, visitors will learn fun facts about the system. For example, over the next 25 years, the system will reduce carbon dioxide emissions equal to planting about 955 acres of trees!
“If you’re a business person, and you forget all the altruistic benefits, solar energy is a good investment,” Andrew says. “Once this system pays itself off in about 8 years, we will have decades of free electricity from the sun,” he says.
Breeden’s Orchard received the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant which covers 25% of solar project costs for rural businesses. In addition, they will claim the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and MACRS Depreciation. Taken together, the grant and tax benefits equal about 73% of project costs that will be recouped within the first year!
Though the farm store has closed for the season, the orchard will host community events throughout the winter. To follow Breeden’s Orchard’s latest happenings and plantings (including an apple tree that grows 5 different varieties of apples!), like them on Facebook.