Green Energy government Grants

In addition to solar panels supplying 25 percent of its electricity needs, White Tank Library, operated by Maricopa County, was built to earn the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Alyson Zepeda)Tucked away in the foothills of White Tank Mountain Regional Park, an unobtrusive building is saving Maricopa County money.

Between the 85-kilowatt solar panel system on its roof and earning the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the White Tank Library is estimated to save the county $10, 400 per year in energy costs, said Nelson Mitchell, public information officer for the Maricopa County Library District. The solar system, installed using a $540, 000 grant under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, supplies 25 percent of the building’s annual needs.

“We value energy efficiency as a way of life, ” Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, the county is using a $2.3 million stimulus grant to install solar hot water systems at two of its jails.

“It makes economic sense, ” said Jonce Walker, the county’s sustainability manager. “If you reduce energy you are saving a lot of money.”

Maricopa County is part of a national trend, helped by stimulus money, of local governments investing in solar power, said Carolyn Berndt, principal associate for infrastructure and sustainability with the National League of Cities.

“Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most efficient form of greenhouse gas reduction, and I think these renewable energy projects can save these governments a lot of money in energy costs, ” she said.

Berndt said that some local governments were already investing in solar projects before stimulus grants were available, but many more are doing so now. She expects more solar projects to pop up around Arizona and the rest of the country as local governments face a deadline of using stimulus money by the end of 2012.

“I think for local governments it is a win-win, ” Berndt said. “You are reducing your energy costs by installing these renewable energy solar power systems, and that’s the bottom line.”

Governments have always been leaders in green initiatives, and it is no different when it comes to energy efficiency and solar power, said Mick Dalrymple, project manager for Arizona State University’s Energize Phoenix, a program funded by stimulus dollars.

“Taxpayers and governments own their buildings and they hold them for a long time, ” Dalrymple said. “When they make improvements to them, taxpayers see the benefits, so it makes a lot of sense.”

Installing solar panels is usually the last step in a process of making a building energy efficient, Dalrymple said and that is what many governments focus on first. But adding solar panels to a building once it is energy efficient is an investment with guaranteed returns for governments, he said. Though many solar systems are estimated to pay for themselves in over 20 years when they are first installed, the inevitable increase in electricity rates make them profitable much faster, he said.

In a time of cuts to education, solar power is a way for Riverside Elementary School District in the southwest Valley to inject more money back into the school, said Jaime Rivera, the district’s superintendent.

“You try to reduce as much as you can to be able to bring these funds back into the classroom, ” he said.

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Q&A

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How To Get Green Energy Residential Grants

Nowadays, homes and businesses are opening up to projects that conserve and produce energy. One particular project that people are concerned with is producing inexpensive power through efficient energy sources, like solar and wind power. Since green energy projects need huge amount of money as an initial investment, getting funds can be very tough. Here are some steps in acquiring green energy residential grants.

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What private foundations give out grants for green energy?

The Iowa Energy Center provides grants for energy research including green energy on topics that have relevance to Iowa.