Increasing energy costs make conservation and efficient use of facilities an important part of today's greenhouse operation. Alternative energy, new greenhouse designs, better glazing, improved heating and ventilating equipment and new management systems are all important business practices. With typical annual energy usage being 75% for heating, 15% for electricity and 10% for vehicles, efforts and resources should be put where the greatest savings can he realized. Below are some energy resources and other funding resources that have been compiled to help greenhouse businesses.
Energy Education and Tools for Greenhouses
- UMass Extension Energy Fact Sheets for Greenhouses
- Virtual Grower
The USDA has developed a software program called Virtual Grower that will help you calculate the heating costs of your greenhouse. Users can use the software to predict heating and energy use specific to their location, greenhouse design, crop produced, and management preferences. Short video about Virtual Grower
- Greenhouse Energy Cost Reduction Strategies (Michigan State University)
- Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Energy Efficiency, Conservation, and Renewables Program
Primary goal is to promote energy knowledge and awareness and to facilitate the implementation of energy related projects for our agri-businesses through energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy applications, as a means to reduce both energy costs and environmental pollution.
For more information: Agricultural Energy Grant Program
Contact: Gerry Palano, Renewable Energy Coordinator, DAR, at (617) 626-1706, email: Gerald.Palano@state.ma.us
- Solar Greenhouses National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
- Thermal Banking Greenhouse Design A short video by Steven Schwen, Earthen Path Organic Farm, Minnesota.
Sources of Funding for Massachusetts Greenhouse Businesses
There are a several opportunities out there. Most require an energy audit to be eligible. The components of the energy audit that is required will depend on the funding program. Below is a short list of programs. A complete list of federal and state funding programs is available under the Mass Farm Energy Program.
1. Mass Farm Energy Program - The MA Department of Agricultural Resources has awarded the non-profit organization, Center for EcoTechnology (CET), grant funding to administer the MA Farm Energy Program (MFEP). Through one-on-one consultations, workshops, financial incentives, energy audits, centralized information and collaboration with other agencies, CET staff work closely with farms to identify and help leverage funding for energy efficient and renewable energy improvements. For information about the MA Farm Energy Program and a list of services and grant opportunities, go to http://massfarmenergy.com/. To contact CET directly, please call 413-727-3090 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), EQIP program (Federal funding)
In 2013 the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provided financial assistance for energy conservation practices such as replacement of inefficient heating systems for oil, natural gas and propane, horizontal air flow (HAF) systems and thermal curtains. An Agriculture Energy Management Plan—Code 122 (or an energy audit) is required prior to receiving any financial assistance for the installation of energy-saving practices. The Ag Energy Management Plan can also be funded through the EQIP program.
EQIP also provides financial assistance for Massachusetts greenhouse operations to implement water quality and water conservation practices. Eligible practices include irrigation systems such as conversion to drip irrigation, ebb and flow benches, flood floors, and capillary mats. The Integrated Pest Management conservation practice can also be used to prevent and/or mitigate the risks of pesticide applications to natural resources.
EQIP High Tunnel program: Agricultural producers can apply to receive financial and technical assistance to help NRCS test the conservation benefits and effects of high tunnels in practical, real-world situations. NRCS provides financial assistance for high tunnels up to a a total of 2,178 square feet. Plants must be planted in the ground or in permanent raised beds, not containerized. Additional practices that might be considered as part of your conservation plan include nutrient management and integrated pest management, cover crop, and conservation crop rotation.
In 2013, farmers who were selected through the competitive EQIP process received $2.81/square foot for the construction (materials and labor) of a high tunnel, or $6,120 for a 30'x 72'high tunnel. The payment rate for beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged or limited resource farmers was $3.37/square foot.
More information on the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program can be found at the links below:
Contact your closest NRCS office for current funding details: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/ma/contact/local/
3. Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Massachusetts Agriculture Energy Grant Program
Project types vary from year to year. Examples of past projects eligible for funding include thermal blankets, roof venting modification, heating distribution modifications, electronic control, high efficiency furnaces/boilers and renewable energy such as photovoltaics, wind, solar thermal, geothermal, bio-fuel and more.
4. Mass. Dept of Agricultural Resources, Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP)
This a water quality program. Examples of projects eligible for funding include automated irrigation systems, drip irrigation, ebb and flow benching, pesticide mixing and storage and more.
For more information and application forms: Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program
Contact Laura Maul 617-626-1739
5. Mass Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Farm Energy Discount Program
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources("DAR" or "Department") is the state agency responsible for determining and certifying eligibility for the Farm Energy Discount Program ("Farm Discount") described and contained in the legislation enacted to restructure the electric industry ("electric restructuring"). As a result of the electric restructuring, all ratepayers will enjoy a mandated ten percent reduction on their energy bills. Upon determination that the applicant qualifies for the Farm Discount, DAR will certify to the appropriate power supplier (either electricity or natural gas) that the applicant meets the requirements for the Farm Discount. The discount is not available for propane or fuel oil accounts.
For more information and application forms: Farm Energy Discount Program
Contact: Linda Demirjian at 617-626-1733.
6. USDA-Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
The Farm Bill provides funding for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. Rural Development administers these funds and offers grants, guaranteed loans, or a combination to farmers and rural small businesses. The annual application deadline is generally in the spring.
- Grant requests must not exceed 25% of the eligible project costs.
- RD renewable energy grants can range from $2,500 to $500,000, and can be combined with MassCEC grants.
- Energy efficiency grants can range from $1,500 to $250,000, and may be combined with public utility incentive programs and MA Farm Energy Program incentives.
- Guaranteed loans can be made up to 75% of the project to a maximum of $25 million, or a combination of 25% grant and up to 50% guaranteed loan. You can learn more about the programs at this link.
Energy generated or saved by the program cannot be for residential use. The estimated cost of installing an electrical meter to separate farm use from residential use is considered an eligible project expense.
Determine eligibility by referring to Rural Development. If you plan to apply, or have questions about eligibility, level of energy assessment, or environmental review requirements, contact Anne Correia in the West Wareham USDA-RD office, 508-295-5151, Anne.Correia@ma.usda.gov. See: Link to Rural Energy for America Program.
7. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)
DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Click on your state to find out what is offered.
Other Agricultural Funding Programs through Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources
8. Mass Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Matching Enterprise Grants for Farming Program (MEGA)
The Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture Program (MEGA) seeks to assist new and beginning farm businesses with start up or expansion costs. The Program offers technical and business planning assistance to support the special needs of beginning farmers. It also makes available financial assistance for equipment, infrastructure or other capital improvements needed to implement strategies recommended through the planning process.
For more information and application forms: Matching Enterprise Grants for Farming Program
Contact: Kate Hayes, 413-559-0949
9. Mass Dept. of Agricultural Resources, APR Improvement Program (AIP)
The purpose of the APR Improvement Program (AIP) is to help sustain active commercial farming on land that has already been protected through the Department’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program. AIP provides technical assistance and business planning to improve farm productivity and profitability with the goal of enhancing the significance of APR farm operations and their contribution to the state’s agricultural industry. The program provides assistance to enhance the long-term continued use of the agricultural resource, which may include economic viability, environmental sustainability, resource conservation, family succession planning, infrastructure improvement, or other issues.
In Phase I, the AIP offers participant farms technical and business planning assistance that is similar to services provided by the Department’s Farm Viability Enhancement Program. However, the land protection component of FVEP is omitted, as APR farmland is already restricted to agricultural uses only. Participating farms that complete an AIP business plan and commit to implementing farm improvement strategies identified in the Plan that meet Program objectives may be eligible for funding through an AIP grant in Phase II.
For more information and application forms: APR Improvement Program
Contact: Melissa Adams, 413-268-8269
10. Mass Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Farm Viability Enhancement Program
The Farm Viability Program seeks to improve the economic viability and environmental integrity of participating farms through the development and implementation of farm viability plans. The Program offers farmers environmental, technical and business planning assistance to expand, upgrade and modernize their existing operations. Capital for the implementation of the improvements recommended in the viability plan is available in exchange for an agricultural covenant on the farm property for a fixed term of five or ten years. For more information and application forms: Farm Viability Enhancement Program
Compiled by Tina Smith
UMass Extension, Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program