MFEP: Get Solar For Your Farm

Yesterday was the second of three scheduled information sessions toeducate Massachusetts farmers about financial incentives that can helpthem afford solar installations and other renewable energy and energyefficiency projects. Hosted by the Mass Farm Energy Program (MFEP),the sessions provide in-depth coverage of state and federal programsthat can help your farm (or, for some incentives, rural small business)reduce energy costs.

Held at the UMass Cranberry Station in Eastern Mass, yesterday’ssession was presented by representatives from a mix of state andfederal agencies. The session included information on:

MFEP Services

If you’re a farmer in the state and don’t know about these guys,it’s time to give them a call. Bringing together state, federal, andprivate sector resources, MFEP provides both financial and technicalassistance to farmers interested in energy improvements. The projectaims to increase energy efficiency and on-site renewable energygeneration, helping farmers reduce their energy bills, become moreprofitable, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. MFEP can help youidentify which programs may be right for your farm and will help youapply for them. They even provide some energy auditing, renewableenergy assessment, and grant writing services.

USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant and loan guarantees

The Department of Agriculture’s biggest singleincentive program for rural energy improvements, many Massachusettsfarmers may be eligible for these funds. Available as pure grants,guaranteed loans, or a combination thereof, REAP funds can help a smallfarmer install solar panels, wind turbines, biomass systems, and more.

USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

A program of the National Resources ConservationServices (NRCS), EQIP aims to improve on-site environmental qualitieslike soil, water, and air. As NRCS says, “Air quality is inherentlyrelated to energy because most energy production methods createemissions that negatively impact our air quality”. That’s why EQIPfunds will help pay for solar installations and other renewable energyprojects. A project may only receive funding from one USDA agency at atime, which is where MFEP comes in by helping you choose which programwill be best for you.

Biomass Crop Assistance Program

This is a USDA Farm Service Agency program that canhelp farmers get a better price for any agricultural product they sellas biomass (like wood pellets).

Massachusetts Renewable Energy Incentives

  • Solar Rebate: Massachusetts solar rebates proved so popular intheir first incarnation that the state flew through its funds way aheadof schedule, leaving solar homes and businesses stagnating for monthslast year as the state scrambled to find more funding and a newstructure. With help from ARRA funding, the Commonwealth Solar II (forsolar installations up to 5 kw) and Commonwealth Solar Stimulus (forsolar installations 5-200 kw) were born.
  • RECs: While technically, you’ve been able to sell the RenewableEnergy Credits attached to your solar array for years in the state,that hasn’t been much of a financial incentive since the going rate wasas low as $0.03/kWh. Now, the state’s new solar credit purchasingmandate has set a minimum for solar RECs of an outstanding $0.30/kWh.While it’s not as potentially lucrative as New Jersey’s market-basedsystem (where prices often go as high $0.60-.65/kWh), it’s a huge stepforward for the state’s solar industry. Solar homes, solar farms, solarbusinesses–they can all participate.

Tax Credits

The federal investment tax credit, equal to 30 percent of the costof most renewable energy projects, is a cornerstone of financing anysolar installation. This is an often misunderstood incentive and you’llbe grateful for the chance to hear it clearly explained in person.Massachusetts also offers some tax incentives to encourage solarinstallations, though nothing as substantial as the ITC.

Sorry you missed out? You can still catch the last session next week in Amherst, MA, scheduled for 9:30-12:30pm on Friday, January 19th. Contact Emily Boss of the Mass Woodlands Cooperative to reserve a space.

Mass Farm Energy Info Sessions: Get Solar For Your Farm


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