Grants Make Greenhouse Projects Possible

money tree, money doesnt grow on trees

With energy costs ranking as one of the top concerns for greenhouse growers, it makes sense to take advantage of energy-efficient equipment and technology. But the cost of retrofitting or adding new equipment can be cost-prohibitive, and it’s often difficult to come up with the capital, even though the savings will be greater in the long-term.

This is where government utility-based incentives can play a role. These programs are designed to provide and incentive and make it more feasible for businesses to make investments in energy-saving technology, thus helping to reduce energy consumption overall. Incentives come in several forms. In order to take advantage of incentives, growers need to become educated about how to apply and what types of projects are usually funded.

Types Of Incentives

“There are three types of incentives,” says Dan Kuipers, solar sales manager and grant specialist with TrueLeaf Technologies, a supplier of heating, irrigation and other greenhouse control systems. Kuiper previously has spent five years as owner of Sustainable Energy Financing (SEF), a consulting firm that helps growers with financing strategies for energy-efficiency, renewable-energy or water-conservation projects.

“There are federal tax credits and other benefits that vary state by state. There are also rebates, or what I call the utility-based incentives, which are offered by individual utility companies. They’re usually driven by state legislation or the state public service commission, which mandate that utilities offer incentives programs based on renewable and energy-efficient technology.”

Kuipers says rebates are usually fairly easy to get. Growers should talk with their utility company and see what is available in their area. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) at dsireusa.org lists available rebates by state and utility.

The third incentive category is grants.

“Grants can offer a very significant injection of cash into a project,” Kuipers says. “The problem with grants is that they usually require a lot of paperwork. Sometimes they need to involve third parties to do energy audits. But the biggest thing is that they’re competitive in nature. They’re not guaranteed.”

Look At The Big Picture Before Applying

“Usually the larger the project in terms of dollars, the more complicated the grants get, and the more difficult it is,” Kuipers says. “There are companies that will guide people through the process. It’s an art form. In my opinion, growers need to focus on what they do best, and that’s grow things, not try to become an author. Grant reviewers can be very picky, and certain components need to be included. Missing what may appear to be minute details may have some broad-reaching implications. Reviewers look for reasons to really distinguish between those applicants that get funded and those that don’t.”

Fundable Projects

The types of projects most likely to receive funding varies widely depending upon the state or even the utility company, but often include:
1. Lighting
2. Envelope/structural improvements, i.e. retrofitting
3. Energy curtains
4. Installing high-efficiency unit heaters, LEED condensing boilers
5. Changing heat distribution systems (hot air to hydronic, for example)
6. Renewable energy projects such as solar or biomass, wind projects
7. Conservation measures such as rainwater catchment systems or retention ponds
8. Recycling

Kuipers says one big mistake growers commonly make is starting to build the project or putting a down payment on equipment, and then applying for a grant hoping to get some extra funds. If you’re looking at a project related to energy, environmental improvement or water conservation, it’s important that growers evaluate and apply for incentives before spending any money.

“The goal of a grant is to make projects possible that wouldn’t happen otherwise,” Kuipers says. “The thinking is, ‘Why do you need an extra boost from us if you’ve already purchased the equipment? There are other applicants more deserving.’”

Choose Projects Carefully

Determining the benefits is key to deciding whether you should invest the time in applying for a grant, Kuipers says. “I always encourage people to apply for grants if it fits within their timeline and if they have a good project — one that has a realistic chance of being funded.”

 However, the tantalizing idea of a grant can also be detrimental. Growers sometimes hold off on projects that would have immediate benefits, hoping for a grant to offset even more of the cost.

“The downside of that is they might find out six or nine months later they didn’t get funded,” Kuipers says. “So a grower may get into a cycle where maybe they go two or three heating seasons using equipment they know they shouldn’t be using because they’re waiting for a grant to sweeten the deal. And in that three years they’ve lost a lot of money on the efficiency side.”

Do The Homework

Projects with a long payback time are the ones that should be funded with grants, Kuipers says. “When you’re looking at technologies that make incremental improvements to efficiency, or less mature technoligies where the cost is still coming down — those generally are the types of projects where grant money is truly needed,” he says. “And that’s when you should hold out and wait to see if you’ve been funded.”

Reviewers are careful about choosing grant recipients, Kuipers says, because they have to do a lot of work as well. “Reviewers want to know what the payback is. They want to make sure that if they’re going to give you a grant or rebate, you have the ability to obtain the rest of your financing. It’s also important that you’re able to talk about co-benefits such as reducing greenhouse gases, job creation and environmental benefits. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) program, for example, requires that a letter from your state energy office that says, ‘We are in support of this project because it meets the environmental goals of our state.’”
Kuipers also recommends that growers obtain a third-party energy audit, because it provides an unbiased opinion of the project and how much energy it will save.

Leave a Reply

12 comments on “Grants Make Greenhouse Projects Possible

  1. To whom it may concern, My wife and I are looking to make a self sufficient home in MO and the first step we are looking at doing is a green house. I have heard there were grants and/or some kind of financial aid for this, if so would you be able to point me in the right direction. Sincerely, Chris and Wendy Lee

  2. Respected Sir / Ma'm…..I have a plot and i am interested to build a greenhouse on it.So can i get grant from government or can i get any help from government??

  3. I'm interested in building two hot houses for tomatoes, cucumbers & squash. Is there a program from the government to help build. I'm a small business that sells at local framers market.

  4. I am interested in a pyramid shaped greenhouse. I want to grow herbs and teach humans how to help themselves with herbs.

  5. my wife and I are trying to build a big green house we have four acres of land and would like to try to find a grant to help us with this project. can you help with any ideas thank you Joe Crowder,

  6. Our's is a voluntary organization working in the field of Non conventional Energy Development projects.Now we plan to manufacture ready made fiber plants and install it to the rural farmers with production cost only, who has the cow dung resources. Can we apply for grant or loan to implement a sustainable project.

  7. Dear Madams /Sirs: We are starting to look at a curriculum-based course of SCIENCE studies over the K-8 and the High school (9-12) curriculum that would fully embrace a green, GREEN HOUSE. We are looking for grants and any means for funding our all-male , Catholic school for our good and then to share with the out-reach to inner city school students we are in service with. The actual conservatory green house to maintain it through a North East winter school season, and two roof-stretches of SOLAR PANEL roofing possibilities as well.

  8. hello, am happy to learn this and willing to join and transform my family members please out of poverty. help me out please God bless you as you reply my request.

More From Equipment...
Status of Marijuana US Map May 2015

May 29, 2015

Marijuana Legalization Updates

As of April 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some capacity. At the federal level, several bills are currently awaiting action. Here is an update on current state and federal marijuana legislation across the U.S.

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

May 29, 2015

Making The Decision To Produce Medical Marijuana

Should horticultural growers consider cultivating medical marijuana? That’s up to the individual grower, of course, and certainly a number of growers already have jumped in. We at Meister Media Worldwide, publishers of Greenhouse Grower and American Vegetable Grower, do not necessarily endorse nor oppose the production of medical marijuana. But we do feel it is an option worth exploring. We intend our “Medical Marijuana” series of articles to give you information you need to make your own call. We hope you find it useful, and we do welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas as we continue to cover what we’re fairly certain is only going to be an increasingly viable and growing market for this emerging crop.

Read More
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More
Latest Stories
Growers are looking for low-cost options for temperature control, like circulating fans and exhaust fans.

April 10, 2015

New Ways To Give Growers Control Of The Greenhouse Envi…

From heating systems to circulation fans, manufacturing companies are finding new ways to help growers control the greenhouse environment, save on energy costs and streamline production.

Read More
Polyarch Berns

March 12, 2015

The Energy Efficient Greenhouse

New coverings technology means today’s films, plastics, shade cloths and climate screens slash heating and cooling costs while improving crop productivity year round. We checked with manufacturers to see what’s new and uncovered some best practices for buttoning up your greenhouse. Here’s what you need to know about the latest trends.

Read More
FormFlex_MTZ Hanging Basket

March 11, 2015

4 New Ways To Automate Your Operation

These new automation products can help streamline labor-intensive tasks, saving time and labor and increasing productivity.

Read More
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More

February 1, 2015

4 Lighting Products For Your Operation

These new lighting products have been developed for maximum energy efficiency in greenhouse production. Check out the slideshow to see which products are right for your operation.

Read More
LumiGrow

January 30, 2015

LumiGrow Expands Customer Base In 2014

LumiGrow, Inc. is adding more than 125 new commercial, governmental and research customers to its roster of customers, and beyond the new accounts added this year, many existing customers significantly increased the number of LumiGrow products they use and research customers made LumiGrow a part of their efforts to add to the body of knowledge about spectral science.

Read More
harvest automation featured image

January 13, 2015

Harvest Automation Extends Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation's robot rental program proved to be such a success for the company that it is being extended through the spring. The program was unveiled last year as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

January 9, 2015

Innovations In Irrigation

Need help improving your irrigation? Check out these new products.

Read More

December 2, 2014

Hanna Instruments, Inc. Introduces pH Electrode With Bl…

Hanna Instruments recently released HALO, a professional pH probe with Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 4.0) technology that transmits measurement data directly to an Apple iPad running the Hanna Lab App.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Biomass Six Years Later: Would Pleasant View Do It Agai…

Pleasant View gardens installed its first biomass boiler six years ago and has added a second one since. Now it’s reaping the benefits of lower heating costs and dollars saved.

Read More

November 18, 2014

7 New Media And Light Products For Greenhouse Productio…

New media and light products cover a broad sweep of growing conditions.

Read More

October 21, 2014

GreenClocks New Generation City Farm Fitted With Philip…

Osaka Prefectural University’s new city farm, which has been fitted out with Philips LEDs, opened September 19.

Read More

October 1, 2014

Harvest Automation Introduces Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation has unveiled a new introductory robot rental program as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

September 15, 2014

Precision Horticulture: What Piece Of Equipment Or Syst…

Let us know what product you can't live without.

Read More

September 15, 2014

New Products For Precision Growing

Increase efficiency with these new offerings in equipment, automation, structures and software.

Read More

August 12, 2014

LEDs Comparable To High Pressure Sodium Lamps For Cutti…

In his Cultivate'14 presentation on lighting the future of young plants with LEDs, Christopher Currey, Iowa State University, shared recent research on how LED lights stack up against high pressure sodium lamps for liner and plug production.

Read More