Green Energy Grants Available

Federal government is giving away renewable-energy grants to Molokai businesses.

By Hilary Dyer

Farmers who might be looking into renewable-energy alternatives will finally have some realistic options.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is catching up with the Renewable Energy Systems Rural Investment Act (The Farm Bill), and offering grants to assist farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses with renewable-energy projects.

USDA representative Tim O’Connell met with Molokai residents on Sept. 27 to provide information on how the island’s rural community can receive free funding from the government to lower energy costs.

Eligible applicants must demonstrate financial need, be in a rural area and have legal citizenship status.

Maui Co. energy commissioner Victor Reyes explained the options available to Molokai residents in greater detail.

The projects can include any source of alternative energy as the law defines – biomass, anaerobic digester, geothermal, hydrogen, wind and solar systems.

Energy efficiency projects, such as improvements to a facility that reduce the consumption of energy, are also approved.

Grant requests can cover as much as 25 percent of the project costs. The grant applicant must come up with the other 75 percent. However, the USDA is also offering guaranteed loans. The loan request must be at least $5,000 and no more than $10 million.

According to O’Connell, the USDA made $100.7 million available for grants during the 2007 fiscal year. Hawaii only received $214,000 of that money.

For the 2008 fiscal year there is no current budget or deadline. Those who qualify are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. O’Connell said the USDA is looking to disperse grants more evenly throughout the entire nation, and applications from Hawaii have a good chance of receiving the grant.

Two Molokai businesses benefited from the project last year. One was Molokai Drugs Inc., which qualified as a “rural small business.” The other project was Kim and Richard Markham’s farm.

Kim Markham assured her fellow farmers that the grant process was actually quite simple.

“The hardest part was getting an energy consultant to come check it out,” she said.

An energy audit must be done as part of the process to ensure that the proposed project is not larger than necessary to meet needs.

The energy consultant for the Markham’s project recommended a solar panel system that would cost $67,000 without taking into consideration any funds from the grant. According to Markham, even without the grant, the system would pay itself off within 10 years.

For more information please visit the Small Business Administration Web site at, or  stop by the Molokai USDA office in Kaunakakai, located next door to the Pizza Café.


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