HONESDALE – The Cooperage will be going green and getting solar panels installed in the building thanks to a grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A Honesdale-based group, Clean Energy Cooperative Inc., was awarded a $17,830 Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grant from USDA for the project.

The organization has been in existence for about a year.

Previously, the state offered incentives for solar installations that would help with larger upfront costs, but they no longer exist.

Due to this, the Clean Energy Co-op was formed to “pull together local investment and establish a Power Purchase Agreement business model,” according to a release.

The Cooperage joins four other Honesdale business getting solar from the Clean Energy Co-op.

According to a release from the USDA, the project will include the installation of a 27.5 kW roof mounted solar system to provide electricity.

The organization also states the solar system will displace 100 percent of The Cooperage's current energy usage, the equivalent of 2.4 homes.

“The Clean Energy Co-op started as an offshoot from SEEDS [Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support],” said George Brown, a board member for the Clean Energy Co-op.

Saving energy

He added the group was looking for opportunities to have clean energy in the area.

“We were looking for nonprofit organizations that might be interested in a solar project,” Brown stated. “The Cooperage was one of the groups that stepped forward.

“We did a solar site assessment and a business model to show how we could provide solar and power on site.”

Both organizations have been working together since this past spring.

The Clean Energy Co-op purchases the solar panels and also does the installation. Buselli Solutions will be installing the solar panels.

“The Cooperage has no upfront costs of buying the panels,” Brown explained. “The Co-op local investors purchase the panels and [organizations] start buying power from the Co-op.”

He added The Cooperage will be paying the same cost that they were with PPL.

“Over time the money paid by The Cooperage to the Co-op to buy the power gets paid back to the investors in the Co-op,” Brown explained.

“It's a slow money local investment for sustainable energy. The money circulates locally in the economy and we get clean energy, so everyone is a winner.”

The USDA grant covers 25 percent of the project cost. The other 75 percent is funded from Co-op investors.

Installation

Brown said solar installation will start on The Cooperage next week.

“Investing locally in clean, renewable energy brings many positive long-term benefits, both financially and in other ways, such as less air and water pollution, a lower carbon footprint, greater local economic resiliency and energy independence,” said Jack Barnett, local resident and president of the organization, in a release.

“With the Clean Energy Co-op, our members have decided to invest directly in our community and in its future.”

According to the USDA, the REAP grants are used to “assist farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses in developing renewable energy systems, and in making energy-efficiency improvements to their operations.”

Future projects

“We will be working with other groups too and will continue doing site assessments,” Brown stated. “We're looking for other nonprofits and community organizations to partner with such as churches or nonprofit groups and community centers.”

He added there isn't another group lined up yet, but those interested in solar can contact the Co-Op at (570) 224-0052.

Co-op membership is open to anyone with similar interests for a one-time $100 fee for individuals.

For more information on the Clean Energy Co-op, visit www.CleanEnergy.Coop.