US Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, announced Friday that Hart’s has been awarded a $14,528 grant for renewable energy improvements and efficiency upgrades. “Because of this grant, Hart’s Greenhouse will be able to produce their own clean energy, saving money in the long run and reducing environmental impacts,” Courtney said.
Joyce Hart, owner of the greenhouse, said they had been considering going solar for a couple of years when they learned about the grant, so they hired a grant writer earlier this year, and it paid off. “It’s a good, clean addition to our business, and we are excited about getting it online,” Hart said, adding that the company hopes to have the 100 panel system in place by the end of December.
The grant was intended to cover about 25 percent of the project, which has grown in scope to a $65,000 endeavor that would allow the company to produce fresh vegetables year-round while saving about $10,000 a year on electricity, Hart said.
“Projects like this one are vital to reducing Connecticut’s carbon emissions, helping our small businesses cope with high energy costs, and to our national effort to become more energy-independent,” Courtney said.
Right now, about 2,000 tomatoes are going into the greenhouses the solar panels will eventually service. Hart’s also grows eggplants, lettuce, cucumbers and other vegetables right through the winter months, catering to a growing demand for locally grown produce.
“The local movement is getting big,” Hart said. “People want to know where their food is coming from.”
The panels will be on a rack that is anchored to the ground so that natural light will continue to shine through the roof.
“If it works out good, we are hoping to put in more installations at our stores, as well,” Hart said.
Hart expressed gratitude for Courtney’s letter of support, which she believes helped Hart’s get the grant.
The grant was provided through the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, which provides financial assistance to agricultural businesses and producers for renewable energy systems and efficiency improvements, among other loan and grant programs to assist rural and agricultural ventures.
To learn more about REAP, visit rurdev.usda.gov.