The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded grants totaling more than $177,000 to four Southwest Colorado projects and businesses to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts.
Shaw Creek LLC, Solar Garden Partners 1 LLP, Solar Power Partners LLC and Mountainmesa Inc. were each awarded a grant.
The grants were awarded as a part of the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program intended for agricultural producers and small businesses in rural communities.
Although REAP was established to offer grants directly to businesses seeking to enact renewable energy efforts, the program was extended in 2017 to allow companies that lease solar panels to be eligible for the grants, a representative of Shaw Solar said in an email to The Durango Herald. Shaw Solar is a Durango-based solar company that has received solar leasing grants and has assisted in the writing of REAP grants for other Southwest Colorado businesses.
According to its website, the program “provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.”
REAP is part of an effort by the Rural Development mission area of the USDA to increase American energy independence. By supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency developments, the program says on its website, it hopes to increase the supply of energy available locally and decrease demand for energy through increased efficiency. The renewable energy grant can be used for projects including biofuel, solar, wind, geothermal, hydrogen or ocean power, but in Southwest Colorado, most of the grants are planned to be used developing solar power.
The grant does not fully fund the energy programs. Leasing companies and regular companies seeking to complete a renewable energy project or energy efficiency project are expected to fund 75% of the project themselves.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who sits on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, applauded the grants.
In a news release, he said, “By focusing on responsibly developing all energy production, including renewable energy, we have an opportunity to make a better life for all Americans.”
John Purcell is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.