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New program helps farms reduce energy costs with renewable energy

New program helps farms reduce energy costs with renewable energy

Applications for the 2015 energy efficiency grants are due June 30 or October 31.

A new program has been launched to help farmers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and improve energy efficiency.

The Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota is now up and running, with support from USDA Rural Development.

"We're seeing increased demand for information about renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements, and are excited to offer free project assistance to Minnesotans," said Fritz Ebinger, Rural Energy Development Program Manager with the Clean Energy Resource Teams and University of Minnesota Extension.

New program helps farms reduce energy costs with renewable energy

For more than a decade, CERTs has been connecting Minnesotans with the resources they need to plan and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. Through this new program, Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota, CERTs will help Minnesota farmers and rural small businesses explore projects that could work for them, identify potential funding and financing options, and get one-on-one assistance on their project.

In particular, CERTs will be helping farms and businesses apply for USDA's Rural Energy for America Program which offers grants for 25% of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

REAP is a great opportunity for Minnesota farmers and rural businesses to save energy with efficiency work and add renewable energy systems. Applications for renewable energy or energy efficiency grants are due June 30.

Projects requesting grants of $20,000 ($80,000 total project cost) can fill out a shorter application and can also turn in applications for an October 31 deadline.

After that, the next deadline for all projects is April 30, 2016.

As part of Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota, CERTs has created sample applications with helpful notes to help people apply for REAP funding.

CERTs will also help farms and rural small businesses explore the possibility of PACE financing--Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE is a new way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to the buildings of commercial property owners and can be REAP companion in Minnesota. With PACE, energy-saving measures pursued by the owners receive project financing and are repaid as a separate item on their property tax assessment for a set period. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing. In combination, USDA REAP can cover 25% of project costs, and PACE can finance them without the requirement of upfront capital.

Part of the program is helping people understand what their peers have done so that they can learn from the experiences of others. Examples of successful projects include the Popp Family Farm in Royalton who installed solar PV and wind using USDA REAP and utility rebates.

Interested farmers and small businesses can learn more and get project assistance by visiting the Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota website at http://mncerts.org/GreatRenewables. Or, call Fritz Ebinger at 612-626-1028.

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