Recently, the Governor of Massachusetts announced 27 grants to benefit farmers across the Commonwealth, to assist in improving energy efficiency, and to implement renewable energy systems. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…
The grants totaling $325,000 are part of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Agriculture Energy Grant Program. In the fifth year of the grant program, 27 farms from the Berkshires to Nantucket were awarded funding to reduce energy costs and improve efficiency.
Gerry Palano, Alternative Energy Specialist at MDAR, says that the awards will help farms reduce their carbon footprint, and save money, but also become more sustainable
Palano says the awards are going to farms that represent a cross-section of the agriculture industry in the Commonwealth.
One of the awards was a $12,500 grant that went to Pine Island farm in Sheffield. Louis Aaragi Jr., part-owner of the farm, says that the money will go towards recovering lost heat energy in a manure digestor.
It’s a complicated process, but Aragi explains how manure from the dairy cows on the farm is used to help generate electricity to power the farm.
Currently, the waste heat from the generator is used to heat buildings on the farm. But Aragi says that the grant will help with his plan to heat the entire farm with the enclosed-cow-powered system.
In monthly fuel-oil costs alone, Aragi estimated that the system can save the farm about $550 dollars a month.
And for the manure that’s put in the digestor in the first place, after being recycled and processed, it’s is used as safe, clean bedding for the cows.
The Agricultural Energy Grant Program began in 2009, and has helped fund 120 projects across the state.
Gerry Palano says that the program has an impact on local economies and keeping Massachusetts farms up and running for the future.
More information is available here: www.mass.gov/agr/programs/aegp/index.htm