New grant program helps Polk farmers improve their energy use

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Western North Carolina Energy Cost-share Assistance Program (EnergyCAP) is now accepting grant applications from WNC farmers looking to fund energy projects for their operations through its Small Farm Energy Grants Program, a new program funded exclusively by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

The program offers 25 percent cost-share grants for energy technologies that reduce farmer operating costs, lower environmental impacts, and increase the farm’s bottom line, such as LED lighting, greenhouse insulation and heating upgrades and renewable energy generation from solar panels and other sources. The grant can be combined with USDA’s REAP grant (also a 25 percent cost-share).

“We get a lot of interest in grant funding for these projects from WNC farmers, but a lot of the time they need the process to offer more funding at the other end, or to be easier,” said Alex Arnold, the project coordinator for EnergyCAP. “We’re hoping this grant can be that funding bridge for farmers trying to cut down on their energy costs and energy usage.”

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EnergyCAP is a nonprofit program that provides free on-site or over-the-phone consultations on farm energy needs, as well as application assistance for farm energy grants. Since 2009, the program has facilitated over $480,000 in cost-share funding for the installation of over 70 energy projects for WNC farms, including 37 photovoltaic systems, seven wind turbines, seven solar hot water heating systems, a micro-hydro system, a biomass project, three passive solar greenhouses and two geothermal greenhouse heating systems.

“We have tried to make this application much more straightforward and easy to complete than what you might experience with the federal grant programs. But we can help farmers with the federal grant applications, too,” said Arnold.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must be persons engaged in agricultural production. Current or former tobacco farmers will be given priority.

Applicants should contact the EnergyCAP project coordinator immediately to set up a time to discuss their projects either by email,, or by calling 828-649-5115.

Resources for finding local energy professionals and self-assessing your energy needs can be found at Applications and further program details can be found at

Application deadlines are April 30 and Oct. 31.

– article submitted by Alex Arnold