BRATTLEBORO -- More than $123,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture alternative energy grants will be invested in two Windham County projects.
Westminster Energy, a project that converts the methane gas released from cow manure into energy, received almost $109,000 from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, in the latest round of grant releases.
And Big Picture Farm in Townshend, a family-owned business that produces gourmet caramels from the farm's goat milk, will get about $14,500 for a solar project at the farm. The company started at Cotton Mill and moved all of its operations to the Townshend farm about one year ago.
The solar panels will be installed on the roof of the company's barn in Townshend.
"This grant will help us pay for a solar array that will provide over 50 percent of our dairy and confectionary's energy needs going forward," said Big Picture Farm Co-owner Lucas Conrad. "We hope to have it installed in mid-September."
The Goodell family at Westminster Farms opened southern Vermont's first anaerobic digester, converting manure from the farm's 1,200 cows into power, in 2009. The farm produces enough energy to power about 250 homes every day.
The REAP grant will be used to help purchase an electrical generation system to support the manure operation.
Across the country 631 projects received more than $21 million in USDA REAP grants this week.
The USDA program provides funding for up to 25 percent of a project's total costs for framers, ranchers and rural small businesses.
Six Vermont projects, totaling more than $1 million in investments, were awarded almost $109,000 in the REAP grants which were announced this week.
Along with the investments in "Cow Power" and solar photovoltaic cells, the USDA grants in Vermont will be used for a micro hydroelectric project and a reverse osmosis machine.
"These six projects represent opportunities for Vermont businesses to reduce their carbon footprints, reduce energy costs and improve profitability," USDA Rural Development Acting State Director David Robinson said. "USDA's investment is leveraging $867,000 of private funding placing the bulk of project investment with the benefiting businesses."
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