USDA Rural Business Administrator Judy Canales joined State Director Jay Healy recently for discussions about, and tours of, three Rural Development financed projects currently underway in Massachusetts. Their first stop was at Berkshire East Ski Area in Charlemont, where the Administrator led a roundtable discussion about USDA’s renewable energy initiatives and celebrated the installation of a new, 900kW wind turbine at the ski area.
Rural Development provided Berkshire East a loan guarantee through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The funds were used, in conjunction with commercial financing through Greenfield Savings Bank and State Clean Energy Center grants, to purchase and install the wind turbine at the family-owned ski area.
The wind turbine will provide 100 percent of Berkshire East’s energy needs. Excess energy will be sold back to the grid creating revenue for the ski area and electricity savings that will equal approximately $195,000 annually. Berkshire East is the largest employer in Charlemont, and will be only the third ski area in the world to be powered by its own wind energy.
The Administrator’s visit to Berkshire East was followed by a tour of Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s Commercial Kitchen in Greenfield. There, Administrator Canales announced that the Franklin County CDC and its partners in the New England Farm and Food Security Initiative would receive a $250,000 Rural Business & Cooperative Grant to finance a project which will build a stronger regional food system, connecting New England farms to New England institutions through cross-state collaboration and infrastructure development. The project will link local farmers with food buyers for area institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons, and will help preserve farmland, create jobs in rural areas, and support local economies, while also providing health benefits to students and other consumers.
Finally, Administrator Canales travelled to Rutland, where she toured the Jordan Dairy Farm and had a look at the farm’s new anaerobic digester. The digester is part of a project being funded by a Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) loan guarantee to AGreen Energy, LLC (AGE).
Five Massachusetts’s farms – Rockwood Farm, Barway Farm, Hager Brothers Farm, Jordan Dairy Farm, and Barstow’s Longview Farm – are involved with AGE as majority shareholders. AGE will serve as a management company which will operate digesters on the five farms and finance, contract for inputs, and sell the digesters’ outputs. Farm Credit East is the lender and holder of the loan guarantee.
In October 2010, ground was broken at the Jordan Dairy Farm for the first of the five anaerobic digestion systems. The AGE project will bring together the five family farms, a regional waste recycling company – Casella – and an advanced energy technology provider – Quasar – to provide renewable energy in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
After the tour of Jordan Dairy Farm, Administrator Canales met for a discussion of the project with Randy Jordan of Jordan Dairy Farm, representatives of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and other agencies.
To find out how USDA can assist with your renewable energy development plans call or visit any USDA Rural Development office.