HILO, Hawaii, Nov 25, 2013 -- USDA Rural Development State Director for the State of Hawaii and the Western Pacific Chris J. Kanazawa announced the selection of Marinas Business Plaza Solar, LLC to receive a $500,000 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant to fund a 650 KhW Photovoltaic Solar Carport System.
"This award clearly demonstrates the Obama administration's effort to create a clean energy economy," stated Kanazawa. "The benefits from this project will not only result in energy savings and reduce electricity costs to the people of the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands (CNMI), but it also provides an economic stimulus by creating new capital investment and jobs."
The grant will be used, together with $1.8 million of private financing, to construct a 650-kilowatt solar power/carport system over the parking lot at the Marinas Business Plaza in Susupe, Saipan. The Marianas Business Plaza project was one of only five projects nationwide to receive the maximum allowable REAP grant of $500,000.
When completed, the project will be one of the largest solar systems in the region, and it will produce 100% of the Plaza's electricity needs.
The former Nauru building is one of the biggest commercial buildings on Saipan and boasts eight floors. The building houses restaurants, law offices, educational organizations, and more. The carports will be erected at the front of the building and will be used to carry over 2,000 solar panels and serve as carport covers. As well, the structures will serve as permanent covers for night and day markets, tourist activities, car shows, and other events.
"We sincerely appreciate the USDA's confidence in MBPS as indicated by this great award, and we are so honored to have been selected after competing at the national level for the grant," stated Erick Van Der Maas, part owner of the Marianas Business Plaza Solar. "We believe in the critical importance that solar energy plays in not only making life more affordable, but in helping the rest of the planet fight against climate change and global warming. But this project is not just about providing cleaner, safer, and cheaper energy, it's about providing jobs and an activity for locals and tourists, and it's about helping our local economy grow stronger."
The Rural Energy for America Program authorized through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, provides assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to complete a variety of projects. Offering both loan guarantees and grants, the REAP program helps eligible applicants install renewable energy systems such as solar panels or anaerobic digesters, make energy efficiency improvements such as installing irrigation pumps or replacing ventilation systems, and conduct energy audits and feasibility studies.
"We want to reach out to more farmers, ranchers and small businesses in the CNMI and encourage them to take advantage of this funding opportunity that is available to finance investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency systems," stated Joe Diego USDA Rural Development Area Director. "Rural Development understands that investment in these systems can be costly; however, REAP offers affordable financing alternative to eligible entities who desire to invest in these systems. Ultimately, the investment will assist farmers, ranchers and businesses become more sustainable in the face of rising energy costs in the CNMI while at the same time becoming more environmentally-friendly."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that today's funding announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy. He said that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $172 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
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