The nonprofit Kids First Child Advocacy Center of the Ninth
Judicial District, which serves abused children, is getting ready to receive free electricity from
the Wampler's Farm Sausage plant next door.
The CAC was built in 2007 on donated land that
was formerly part of the Wampler's family farm.
"We are extremely fortunate," Chris
Evans-Longmire, CAC executive director, said. "We wouldn't be here if it weren't for Wampler's.
Then, (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Rural Development awarded us a grant to offset the cost of
tying the CAC into Wampler's electric grid. Wampler's wanted to do something to help us save money,
and they decided to absorb our power bill. It will be a huge cost savings for us."
Evans-Longmire said the CAC faces potential loss of some state and federal funding.
us, the state and federal dollars are as secure as can be," she said. "We have an approved federal
contract through 2016, but if there is loss of funding at a federal level, it is going to impact us.
We don't know what we face in loss or how much. It is a continuing challenge to find funding to keep
the center operating as we are."
Electricity currently costs the center $400 to $450 a
month, but heating is conducted with natural gas, which adds another $100 to the cost for
Because Wampler's has offered to provide electricity at no cost, the CAC plans to
convert the heating system to electricity. The cost of that conversion, which will be between
$12,000-$17,000, will require some fundraising, Evans-Longmire said, but it would be well
worthwhile. "This could save us $7,500 to $8,000 a year," she said.
The Rural Development
grant will pay $4,500 of the cost toward tying into Wampler's. Lenoir City Utilities Board has
agreed to lay the lines, and Wampler's will pay for the trench from the hydrogen power plant to the
center. The transmission lines will be underground.
"We would like to think that by the end
of the year, we will be up and running" on the hydrogen power, Evans-Longmire said.
months of building and testing the proton power generation plant by running generators with natural
gas, Wampler's is on schedule to begin generating hydrogen power from biofuel this month, Ted
Wampler, Jr. plant manager said.
The initial biofuel supply, switchgrass, is secured and
bulldozers are preparing a compost area for the soil-enriching biochar byproduct. The power
generated from hydrogen will be available to the CAC.
"We are not going to be off the grid,
but we expect to be net zero grid connected by the end of the month," Ted Wampler Jr. said. "During
the day we will be generating our own power and evenings and weekends we will run the meter
backward, so at the end of the month, we will have no electric bill."
The Wampler's plant
began exploring alternate power sources by installing solar power generation panels on the hillside
near the CAC. That project is operated under a program by Tennessee Valley Authority, which
purchases the solar energy and applies it back to the electric grid. The power producer is paid an
amount for each kilowatt hour generated.
The hydrogen power does not return to the grid,
but is utilized directly by the generators.
Ted Wampler Sr. and wife Frances recently were
freed from paying a monthly electric bill at their home adjacent to the plant.
"I like that
fine," Ted Wampler Sr. said, laughing. "Our budget's been cut, too."
The benefits of
extending electric service a few more feet to reach the center was obvious, Ted. Wampler Sr. said.
"When we heard their budget at CAC had been cut, we figured we could do something to help them," he
said. "They do such good work. We need to take care of them."
Evans-Longmire said the
Wamplers have proved themselves good friends of the CAC, as well as good neighbors.
have helped and supported the CAC," Evans-Longmire said. "They continue to stay connected to us.
They want to contribute, and they support our projects."
Sweetwater Valley Farm in
Philadelphia also received a USDA Rural Development grant of $20,000 toward a solar installation at
their Thunder Hollow Dairy facility, just miles from the cheese store facility.
Harrison, farm owner, said the entire project cost $120,000 but seemed to be one that will be cost
"I'd been looking at this for a long time, but we were waiting to see if it
would be feasible," he said. "From what we can tell, this will provide a good return on our
The two Loudon County projects are among 30 across the region to receive USDA
Rural Development funding. State Director Bobby Goode last week joined leaders from across the
region to announce the funding of the projects. Lacy Upchurch, Tennessee Farm Bureau president,
joined Goode on Tuesday to award the Sweetwater Valley Farm a $20,000 grant for renewable
The Rural Energy for America program was used for the grant funding for Sweetwater
Valley Farm. Seven regional businesses received REAP funding for projects.
investments pave the road for long-term growth across the region," Goode said. "They strengthen the
backbone of many rural economies and provide immediate jobs that help to revitalize these
The East Tennessee Development District received $15,000 to assist with the
East Tennessee Regional Leadership course.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs,
infrastructure, community development, home ownership and affordable rental housing to improve the
economic health of rural communities. During the last four years the agency has assisted more than
1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 158 communities, investing more than $3.3 billion
into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.