ME businesses explore fed grants for renewable energy projects

Businesses of any kind can tap into a $1 billion pool of federal funds dedicated to renewable energy projects.

MAINE, USA — More Maine businesses are taking steps to secure grants they can use to make their energy systems greener.

There is a federal program to assist small businesses to make that happen.

Businesses and farms in rural areas can obtain grants to transform from greenhouse energy sources to renewable ones. Like Mark Politte, principal of the Stanley Subaru in Trenton, who used nearly $65,000 in federal money to install solar panels.

Politte says, so far, the benefits have outweighed the costs.

“One of the elements of our mission statements is to be a good corporate citizen. Whether it’s supporting the community and the great non-profits that exist and trying to make it a better place to live. But we wanted very much to be a sustainable business long term. And we wanted to be kind to the environment for our kids and grandkids,” Politte said.

He cataloged the journey.

“We started looking in 2010. The technology got better. The price points got better. And the assistance of tax credits made the whole project come together in 2020,” he said.

Since the spring of 2021, 350 solar panels light the business.

Today he is pleased that electricity use for this business is totally covered with the use of the solar panels installed.

“If it had not been for the assistance from the USDA and the tremendous effort that Solar Logic put together to pull it all into reality, we wouldn’t be standing here today 100 percent powered by the sun,” Politte said. 

Rhiannon Hampson, Maine’s director for the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development, explained that businesses of any kind can tap into a $1 billion pool of federal funds dedicated to renewable energy projects afforded by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Rural Energy for America Program.

Hampson said, “We have farmers who want to make this a part of their natural resource conservation plan.”

Wendy Reinemann, along with her husband Bruce Reinemann, operates the Guini Ridge Farm in Rockport. Their business model is focused on sustainability.

Reinemann shared her journey and the growth of their business. 

She said, “The journey really started when I was watching our farm grow, and I wanted to be a part of it on a daily basis. I just knew that’s where my heart and passion was.”

Reinemann, who once worked in corporate America, is now a full-time farmer.
The farm was just awarded a $20,000 REAP-IRA federal grant.

“Taking advantage of the solar program that was offered through R-E-A-P was just kind of the next logical step,” she said.

Encouraging other businesses to take the same steps, Reinemann advised, “Don’t let it intimidate you. It’s definitely a process.”

State officials are available to help with plans, to the extent possible. Through partnerships, they help candidates for grants with the required paperwork.

For more information, visit the USDA Rural Development webpage here.

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