Grants available for energy-efficiency systems and improvements

Rural small businesses and farms in Michigan can apply for grants ranging from $1,500 to $500,000.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a funding source for agriculture producers and rural small businesses that encourages them to adapt their facilities to conserve and produce renewable energy through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This is an ongoing effort to help small rural communities become more energy-conscious and contribute to renewable energy sources.

 The grants and low-interest loans are available to these businesses for the purchase and installations of renewable energy systems and for making energy efficiency improvements. The competitive grants can be up to 25 percent of total eligible project costs. Grants range from $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements up to $500,000 for renewable energy systems. Grant funds are also available to conduct feasibility studies and energy audits in rural communities.

 The types of projects that are eligible include retro-fitting lighting or insulation, purchasing or replacing equipment with more efficient units, producing energy from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro power and hydrogen-based sources.

Through these grant funds, farms throughout Michigan are encouraged to install systems that would create renewable energy, such as wind turbines, windmills, anaerobic digesters and solar panels. Small businesses would be able to install new, energy-efficient lighting throughout their facilities, cutting down energy bills and usage.

These REAP grants are available to rural communities throughout Michigan. For more information on the types of funds, qualifications, and other guidelines, download the fact sheet located on the USDA’s website, www.rurdev.usda.gov/Home.html. The Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, a partner of Michigan State University Extension, can assist in identifying those rural communities located in northern Michigan, as well help with the application process. You can contact the NLEA at www.northernlakes.net or by calling (231) 582-6482.