Published 01/02/2012

REAP the Rewards of government funding

Five things you may not know about energy grants

Though the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has been awarding energy grants and guaranteed loans since 2007 (estimates say approximately $57 million worth), there remains an intimidation factor that prevents many from even considering applying for funding.

Yet greenhouses offer some of the best potential, both in payback and successful grant applications.

“Greenhouses use a lot of power, so energy grants are something they really should look at,” says David Thigpen, USDA energy coordinator for North Carolina.

Agricultural producers with 50 percent or greater gross income from agriculture and rural small businesses are eligible. Don’t be misled by the “rural” label either — producers in metropolitan areas also qualify.

“You can be eligible even if you’re near a large city,” says Thigpen. “This particular program says if you’re an agricultural producer, you don’t have to be in the country.”

Rather, look at the type of project. Two kinds can qualify. One is energy efficiency – for example installing energy curtains, retrofitting heaters or lighting, adding insulation, or purchasing or replacing equipment and motors with more efficient units. The other is renewable energy – including projects that produce energy from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, anaerobic digester, hydrogen, ocean, and hydroelectric.


Grants are available for up to 25 percent of project costs. In other words, a $100,000 project could receive a $25,000 grant. The maximum grant for energy efficiency is $250,000 and $500,000 for renewable energy. Most project costs, including the energy audit, are eligible. Greenhouse employee labor is not an eligible cost. An important note as labor can be about one-third of the cost, and the grant is effectively a 25 percent discount on outsourced installation labor.

It’s well worth the effort; in fact, you may be surprised to learn some of the ins and outs of the process.

Look at what you’re doing
You’re probably already doing a lot of the things you need to do to qualify. At the core of the energy grants process is understanding and managing your facility’s energy use, something you should already be doing.

Tracking your energy use, understanding your peaks and valleys for usage patterns, are all things successful growers live and breathe every day...

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