Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The best money the federal government spends

Most grants--both private and federal--fund studies, program development, and similar activities. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency program that awards grants for actually installing green power systems or high-efficiency retrofits. The program originally awarded $23 million in grants annually; more recently, some of the money has been shifted to funding loan guarantees. Midwestern states have aggressively pursued this USDA funding, and it has enabled the construction of dozens of anaerobic digesters.

From the beginning, we planned to make a renewable energy grant a part of our funding package. We applied for the maximum grant--along with two loan guarantees--in June and settled in to wait for the USDA to its work. In most years the results came out in September, but things moved more quickly this year--awards were announced on August 27, and Farm Power received its full $500,000!

We were the only Washington recipient--actually, the first award to the state since 2005--so our Congressional delegation was happy to hear that their letters of support helped; Congressman Larsen's office put out a press release. Now if Congress would just pass an extension to the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit.... The Skagit Valley Herald ran another little story and various supporters celebrated; we actually got the news during a day-long series of meetings in Whatcom County, so we were too tired to do much! I guess we'll just celebrate in a couple months when we're actually building.

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