The U.S. government is now accepting applications for $3 billion in government grants to boost development of renewable energy projects around the country

The money, from the economic stimulus package, will provide direct payments to companies in lieu of tax credits to support an estimated 5,000 biomass, solar, wind and other renewable energy production facilities. Projects must begin construction this year or in 2010 to get the grants.

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The Treasury and Energy Departments announced the funding guidelines earlier this month. Each project is expected to receive an average of $600,000, but there is no cap on how much a company can get or a limit on the total funds that will be available.

”This program will play a major role in encouraging private sector capital to invest in clean energy development, creating new jobs that can’t be outsourced,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.
”It is an investment that will continue to help our economy grow and ensure advancement in clean and renewable energy development,” he added.

President Obama has promoted development of clean energy as a way to jump start the lagging economy. He has pledged to double renewable energy production in three years.

Previously energy companies could file for a tax credit to cover a portion of the costs of a renewable energy project. Under the new program, companies would forgo the tax credits in favor of an immediate reimbursement of 30 percent of certain project expenses, making funds available quickly.

The government plans to have checks deposited into a company’s bank account within 60 days after receiving an eligible application.

Following are the projects eligible for the money:

* Wind facility: uses wind to produce electricity. Wind turbines with capacity of 100 kilowatts (kW) or less may also qualify as a small wind energy property but only one payment is allowed with respect to the property.

* Closed-loop biomass facility: uses organic material from a plant grown exclusively for purposes of being used to generate electricity.

* Facility modified to use closed-loop biomass to co-fire with coal, other biomass, or both. Modification must be approved by the Biomass Power for Rural Development Program or be part of pilot project of the Commodity Credit Corporation.

* Open-loop biomass facility (cellulosic waste material): uses solid, nonhazardous, cellulosic waste material or any lignin material derived from qualified sources to produce electricity.

* Open-loop biomass facility (livestock waste nutrients): uses agricultural livestock waste nutrients to produce electricity and has a nameplate capacity rating of not less than 150 kW.

* Geothermal facility: uses geothermal energy to produce electricity.

* Landfill gas facility; uses gas derived from the biodegradation of municipal solid waste to produce electricity.

* Trash facility: uses municipal solid waste to produce electricity and is not a landfill gas facility.

* Hydropower facility (incremental hydropower): produces incremental hydropower production as a result of efficiency improvements and additions to capacity to which the incremental hydropower production is attributable.

* Hydropower facility: hydropower producing facility installed on a qualifying non-hydroelectric dam. The property must be licensed by FERC and meet all other applicable environmental, licensing, and regulatory requirements.

* Marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facility: uses marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy to produce electricity and has a nameplate capacity rating of at least 150 kW.

* Solar electricity property: uses solar energy to generate electricity.

* Solar thermal property: uses solar energy to heat or cool (or provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat (property used to generate energy for heating a swimming pool ineligible).

* Solar lighting property: uses solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight.

* Geothermal property: equipment used to produce, distribute or use energy derived from a geothermal deposit.

* Fuel cell property: fuel cell power plant that has a capacity of at least 0.5 kW of electricity using an electrochemical process and an electricity-only generation efficiency greater than 30 percent.

* Microturbine property: stationary microturbine power plant with capacity of less than 2,000 kW and an electricity-only generation efficiency of not less than 26 percent.

* Combined heat and power system property: system that uses the same energy source for the simultaneous or sequential generation of electrical power, mechanical shaft power, or both, in combination with the generation of steam or other form of useful thermal energy.

* Small wind energy property: uses a turbine with capacity of not more than 100 kW to generate electricity.

* Geothermal heat pump property: uses the ground or ground water as a thermal energy source to heat a structure or as a thermal energy sink to cool a structure.

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