Renewable energy program launched for B.C. farmers

Farmers in British Columbia can now apply for federal/provincial funding to help sort out how to fit renewable energy technology in their farm or food processing operations.

The two levels of government last week released application forms for their Renewable Energy Technology (RET) Feasibility program, under which “in-depth” assessments are run on the viability of a given proposed new energy source on a given farm.

Successful applicants’ farms would undergo an “expert assessment” and they would receive “private, in-depth, site-specific” assessments of the technical feasibility, financial viability, costs and benefits of integrating a RET into a farm operation.

The successful applicants would then also receive tailored implementation plans to follow, should they decide to proceed with installation of the RET studied on their farms.

Participants are to be selected through a call for expressions of interest and would be chosen based on “several criteria,” including commodity type, farm location and size, the “viability of technology adoption” and the potential for the RET type’s “transferability to other agricultural and agri-food operations.”

Up to 10 producers are to be selected for the studies of each type of RET, the governments said. Technologies set to be studied so far include solar thermal water heating, solar air heating, solar air conditioning or geothermal heat pumps.

All study work approved under this program must be completed by the end of March 2013, the governments noted.

“Library”

Participants are to be required to contribute toward the cost of the assessment before it starts, and to consent to the release of an assessment once it’s completed (with any confidential information removed from the publicly available version).

The producer contribution would be 30 per cent of the costs, up to a maximum of $5,000, the governments said in their Aug. 17 release.

The goal of the program is to create a “library of publicly available assessments” and to develop a set of tools enabling farmers to make “informed decisions about which technologies would best integrate into their existing operation(s).”

Those tools, the governments said, are expected to include “industry benchmarks, factsheets, self-assessment tools and sample implementation plans.”

The public funding for the RET Feasibility program is to come from the $78 million budgeted for non-business-risk-management programming in B.C. in the five-year federal/provincial Growing Forward ag policy funding framework, which wraps in 2013.

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