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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
New federal funding to help Mass. farms save energy and reduce operating costs
USDA funds support existing state and public utility funding through the Mass. Farm Energy Program
Farms and rural small businesses in Massachusetts seeking to reduce energy costs or install clean energy technologies have long relied on the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP) for funding and technical assistance.
Now, new funding from the United States Department of Agriculture will support the work of the MFEP. The USDA has awarded a $33,000 Rural Business Development Grant to the Center for EcoTechnology (CET), a non-profit based in Northampton, Mass., who partners with MDAR to manage the MFEP. The grant will be used to provide timely information, funding request assistance, and technical assistance to rural farms that wish to improve their energy efficiency and reduce operating costs.
Farm energy projects are presently funded by MDAR’s Ag-Energy Grant Program, the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), municipal utility companies, and public utilities that administer the MassSave Program.
The funding was announced by MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux today, January 6, at Otter River Farm (Smith Country Cheeses) in Winchendon, Mass. In 2016 Otter River Farm installed a solar thermal array with funding from the USDA’s REAP, USDA’s NRCS, MDAR’s Ag-Energy Grant Program, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The solar thermal array will help the farm produce annual savings of $3,368 in energy costs and reduce energy use by 1,300 gallons of oil each year. The farm was recently purchased by Allie and Jake Catlin from longtime original owner Dave Smith, an early adopter of many sustainable practices including renewable energy technologies. The cheese making operation produces award-winning cheeses of all varieties. The farm also features other energy producing and saving technologies, including a photovoltaic system, inverters to convert the DC current produced into AC current, and the latest technology in power management and monitoring.
“Through our MA Farm Energy Program, we have been able to help more farms with much needed technical energy assistance and secure funding such as the grants associated with this solar thermal project,” said Commissioner Lebeaux of MDAR. “This in turn provides more economic development opportunities for their business and ensures economic stability in a time when energy costs continue to rise and fluctuate.”
The Massachusetts Farm Energy Program offers funding and technical assistance to help farms in Massachusetts improve energy efficiency and reduce operating costs. Started in 2007 as a collaborative effort between the Berkshire-Pioneer Resource Conservation Development Area (BPRC&D), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the program has served well over 500 farms with a variety of day-to-day technical and financial assistance with an ultimate goal to implement energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Since the Center for EcoTechnology became the MFEP program administrator in 2014, the program has
- reduced energy costs by $180,000
- created energy savings of 787 million BTUs, equal to powering 293 houses for a year
- reduced carbon emissions by 800 tons, equal to taking 586 cars off the road for a year
- assisted to 50 rural farms in communities with a population under 5,000 people,
“Maximizing energy efficiency and strengthening renewable energy production are key toward building economically secure rural communities in Southern New England,” said USDA State Director Scott J. Soares. “I am proud of the work done by USDA Rural Development and our partner organizations like CET and MDAR to help build strong rural business, increase energy conservation and cut energy costs.”
“MFEP services are a tremendous opportunity for agricultural producers to reduce operating costs, improve equipment, save energy, reduce environmental impact and often improve productivity,” said Lorenzo Macaluso of CET. “This new USDA grant is a great example of how we leverage State and Federal funds to get the maximum value for these investments. By working together, CET helps MDAR, USDA, the Mass. Clean Energy Center, utility companies, and farms all reach their goals and continue to provide high quality, locally grown food for Massachusetts residents.”
With the support of the USDA-RBDG grant, CET will provide new workshops, guides, and technical assistance to help rural small businesses and farms install cost-effective energy improvements – such as improved equipment, energy efficient lighting and cooling systems, and clean energy generation – to stabilize and in some instances expand their operations.
The new USDA funding adds to a variety of funding sources the MFEP draws on to provide help to farms, including funding from public utilities, the USDA Rural Energy for America Program, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), municipal utilities, Mass. Clean Energy Center, and a variety of energy efficiency and clean energy rebates.