Arlington business receives award for solar panels from U.S. Sens. Warnock, Ossoff –

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ARLINGTON – Democratic U.S. Sens. the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff announced recently $874,000 in new federal investments to help south Georgia businesses purchase and install solar panels.

One of the businesses selected for an award is Conner Insurance Agency LLC in Arlington. The Calhoun County business will receive a $30,000 award to help toward purchasing solar panels.

Ben Conner, who co-owns the company with his parents, said they applied for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant – part of the Build Back Better Framework – in hopes that they could reduce energy costs and not be as reliant on the larger power grid.

Conner said after Hurricane Michael in 2018, Arlington was cut off from the surrounding areas with cell towers, electricity and “basically everything” down for a week after the storm.

He said the insurance agency had many clients who received damage and needed to file claims, but without power the business was essentially shut down.

“I was sitting in front of the business in the parking lot with a clipboard just taking down people’s information,” Conner said. “Once I had it, we drove out of the area to get cell service and send that information to family staying outside of the disaster area so they could file the claims on our behalf.”

Conner said with an independent power source, the company would be better equipped during power outages or natural disasters.

“We’d be able to maintain our operation, even if the surrounding area is devastated, to help our clients recover as soon as possible,” he said.

The company is working with Georgia Solar Pros, based out of Cairo. Funding from the grant will pay for 50% of the project. Conner said within a year, the company will receive a tax credit for switching to solar that will pay off most of the rest.

“We’ll have the ability to use and store 100%of our energy needs when it’s (the sun) available,” he said. “We’ll have battery backups to continue the power supply until the sun comes back out. Worst case scenario, we can always still utilize the grid.”

Conner Insurance Agency has been operating in Calhoun County since 1963. It’s family-owned and one of the only insurance agencies working in the Calhoun County area. Conner said most of the company’s competition operates out of Albany.

“It’s nice to be a local option for our clients in Arlington and the surrounding towns,” he said.

The company serves the Tri-County area of Calhoun, Early and Baker. Conner said it specializes in insurance for nonprofits and disability centers throughout Georgia.

He said he expects the use of solar by area companies to increase once they see the benefits.

“Being able to build up resilience and infrastructure, especially in a rural place like this, really helps the region for the people who still live here and will still be living here to have the same quality of life as somebody over in … a metropolis like Albany,” Conner said.

Other grantees include Storm Services Texas LLC, a solar production company in Thomasville. This operation is receiving a $819,125 award.

Finish Line Storage LLC in Lee County will also receive a $25,601 grant to help it purchase and install solar panels.

This funding was made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a piece of legislation that aims to tackle inflation, promote economic growth and invest in clean energy and infrastructure. The IRA provided $2 billion to the REAP for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement grants for agricultural producers and rural small business owners.

Warnock wrote in a press release that this latest set of investments will help small businesses in rural communities throughout south Georgia adopt energy efficient systems, saving them money and protecting the planet.

“Our rural communities are the heart of our state and too often get left behind when it comes to federal funding,” he wrote. “I’m deeply committed to continuing my work in Washington to reverse that trend in Georgia.”

Ossoff called the awards an investment in Georgia’s energy future in a news release. He wrote that he and Warnock will continue to champion energy security and energy independence to lower energy costs for Georgia’s farmers and businesses.

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