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Gerry Palano

Gerry Palano

Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources

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The Winter Farm Energy Workshop series on technical assistance and financial incentives for farms and forest product businesses began its fourth season this winter. Intending to inform farmers across the state about funding and technical assistance available for renewable energy or energy efficiency projects, these free workshops provide current information and offerings from a number of state and federal programs. Included are presentations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Rural Development (RD) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP); USDA’s Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) Loan Programs; Massachusetts state electric and natural gas programs; the Mass Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) renewable energy programs;the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program (MFEP); and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR)AgEnergy Program. Policy and legislative incentives such as net metering, renewable energy certificates (RECs), solar carve-out, and state and federal tax benefits are reviewed as well.

Solar panels on roof

These workshops are sponsored by the Massachusetts Woodlands Institute (MWI), Berkshire-Pioneer Resource Conservation and Development Area (RC&D) in Amherst, and Patriot RC&D of Westford, and MFEP – a statewide collaborative effort to streamline technical and financial assistance available to help Massachusetts farmers reduce energy demand and increase profits. Created as a pilot and now completing its third year, MFEP has assisted more than 100 farms and helped implement more than 50 energy projects. Funded through grants from NRCS and MDAR, the one-stop-shopping program is gaining recognition as “Energy Central” for farms across the Commonwealth.

Federal partners last year provided over $2.6 million for 31 farm energy projects, including wind and solar installations and energy efficiency initiatives. Working through the MFEP in 2010 alone, Massachusetts agricultural energy projects resulted in annual savings of over 963,000 kWh of electricity, 20,600 gallons of fuel oil, 10,400 therms of natural gas, 130,600 gallons of propane, and 19 cords of wood – reducing agricultural emissions of CO2 by over 3,200 tons.

Among the many farms that have benefited from the knowledge of programs and services available through the Farm Workshop Series is Winter Moon Farm in Hadley, an almost year-round diverse vegetable growing operation. Winter Moon secured a REAP grant of $35,670 with the help of grant writing assistance from Massachusetts Woodlands and MFEP, as well as an AgEnergy grant of $11,990, and various tax benefits toward its 34 kW roof-mounted solar PV system. As a result, Winter Moon expects its clean energy project to pay for itself within seven years and – more importantly – help provide long-term energy and farm operation sustainability.

This year farm energy workshops were held in Amherst, Leominster and Carver, with one remaining at the Lanesborough Town Hall on February 11. To register, please contact Emily Boss, Massachusetts Woodlands Institute, at 413-397-8800 or emily@masswoodlands.coop. For more information about the workshops or MFEP services, please contact Ann Gibson agibson@berkshirepioneerrcd.org or Darlene Monds Darlene.Monds@ma.usda.gov at 413-256-1607 or Gerry Palano at 617-626-1706, Gerald.Palano@state.ma.us. Additional information is at http://www.berkshirepioneerrcd.org/mfep/

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As Deputy Director of DOER's Green Communities Division, Lisa helps lead a team devoted to working with Massachusetts cities and towns to realize environmental and cost benefits of municipal energy efficiency and renewable energy. Prior to joining DOER, Lisa worked in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs from 2007 to 2012, first as Press Secretary and then as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Public Affairs. Her previous communications and public relations experience includes both government and the private sector, where, as principal of upWrite Communications, she served clients such as The Trustees of Reservations, The Nature Conservancy, and Partners Health Care/North Shore Medical Center. She began her career as a journalist, covering Beacon Hill for the State House News Service, and later wrote for a variety of other publications including The Boston Globe, Teacher Magazine, Animals Magazine, and The Gulf of Maine Times. The author of two books, Lisa serves on the board of the Saugus River Watershed Council and resides with her family in Melrose.

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