The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 16, 2007

Cambria, Somerset get energy grants

Grants topping $500,000 were awarded in Cambria and Somerset counties as part of the state’s Energy Harvest program.

Statewide, the grants will support 28 innovative projects that will generate clean and renewable energy, reduce pollution, conserve natural resources and educate the public on renewable energy technologies.

St. Francis University in Loretto was awarded two grants totaling nearly $400,000.

The Somerset County Conservation District will serve as the conduit for a $140,000 grant to benefit a dairy farm electricity producing biodigester.

The Wind Assessment Program at St. Francis landed $303,830 to continue to collect wind data on sites with potential for community, business and individual turbines, said Erik Foley, director of the Renewable Energy Center.

“Our purpose is to lend start-up technical assistance. We want to help projects get off the ground – locally owned projects,’’ Foley said this week. “We come in just at the beginning to say, ‘You got wind here or you don’t.’ ”

And a $75,000 grant will help the university pay for a 44-well geothermal heating and cooling system for the planned DiSepio Institute for Rural Health & Wellness, university spokesman Amanda Stoehr said.

The environmentally friendly geothermal system will be at least 30 percent more fuel efficient than traditional heating and ventilation systems, she said.

Additionally, the project will create 15 full-time positions and 50 construction jobs and will act as an educational tool for university engineering students.

In Somerset County the conservation district was awarded $139,900 on behalf of the Hillcrest Saylors Dairy Farm. An additional generator for the existing biodigester will allow increased capacity without flaring excess methane as part of electricity production.

The extra generator will allow use of additional food residuals without flaring excess methane. The increased biogas production is expected to produce an additional 75,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, said he secured the grants.

“I am glad to support Energy Harvest grants that fund projects promoting and building markets for renewable energy technologies,” Wozniak said.

Since the Energy Harvest Program began in May 2003, it has awarded $21 million and leveraged another $51.9 million in private funds. The state Department of Environmental Protection administers the grant program.

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