In 2007-08, at least twelve other farmers in Southwest Missouri joined Fitchpatrick in making the switch from propane to biomass for heating their poultry houses.
Fitchpatrick learned about REAP funding through Bill Harvill, a local poultry grower, who installed his own biomass stove with a REAP grant.
The support of the local USDA office in Springfield was essential, he said.
“They were there any time you had a question on the grant. They really helped to walk you through the difficult parts of the application.”
Fitchpatrick received a REAP grant for $20,000, or about 25% of the total cost to buy and install an 800,000 BTU biomass stove that will heat all four of his chicken houses. Asked if he could have completed the project without REAP funding, Fitchpatrick commented, “Not on this scale. It allowed me to do all four poultry houses instead of just two.”
The new stove also is self-regulating, turning off on warmer days when less heat is needed. “That’s another easy way we save on energy costs,” he said.
“We used to be at the beck and call of the oil industry,” he said. “The biomass stoves also give us the flexibility to shift fuel sources from wood to corn. It helps to stabilize our energy costs.”
While payback will depend on future propane costs, Fitchpatrick says he could never think about going back. “Fundamentally,” he noted, “It’s all about looking forward. We can’t get caught in the do-nothing trap when oil prices are low. We need to be looking at promoting long-term sustainability.”