A small group of Energy Committee members has been working on the possibility of getting money from a Department of Energy program called “Connected Communities” to help with our sustainability efforts. The funds would be used for adding solar energy, batteries, and energy monitoring, in addition to replacing our two aging diesel generators.
With the support of Seth Beaver, Ed Plasha, and Lisa Marsilio (and the help of Dr. Jim Freihaut, a Penn State engineering professor), we have now submitted a “concept paper” which the DOE will review and respond to.
Here are answers to some “frequently asked questions” about the grant process. Do you have additional questions? Put them in the comments box at the bottom.
Q: What type of grant are we applying for?
A: We are applying for a Department of Energy “Connected Communities” grant. This is a program that offers grants to multi-building communities of various kinds to help with energy efficiency, renewables, and support for the regional grid. The program emphasizes grants for installations that could be models for similar efforts at many sites across the country. You can download the full details here. A small group of residents (the “grant team”) has been working on the application process for two months, meeting most recently with Seth Beaver and Ed Plasha.
Q: What is the current state of the application?
A: We are at the initial stage, which is submitting a “concept paper” of 7 pages or less, describing in broad terms what is being proposed. We did that on February 1. Our request covers both the Crosslands and Kendal campuses. The concept paper describes a plan for solar panels (some ground-mount, some rooftop), a battery facility, two new natural gas backup generators (to replace our diesel units that are at the end of their working lives), facilities for monitoring electricity use (including campus-wide WiFi that could be available to residents), and a number of related items. No detailed plans have been developed yet for any of this—that will be part of the full application (if we reach that stage).
Q: What is the size of the proposed grant?
A: The total cost of these items is in the multiple millions of dollars, of which the DOE would pay 70% and Kendal-Crosslands would pay 30%. The great majority of the cost is for items that Kendal-Crosslands would most likely have to purchase, with or without the grant.
Q: What happens next with the grant application?
A: Within a week or two, the DOE will respond to our concept paper. They will either encourage us to submit a full application, or tell us not to bother. If we get their encouragement, the grant team will go to work on the full application. The KCC administration will have the final decision as to whether we submit an application. The application is due March 3. If we go ahead with the application, we will learn in July whether or not we will get funded.
Q: What are our chances of getting the grant approved?
A: They are probably low. We are told that this particular grant program is “very competitive”, and less than 10 proposals will be funded nationwide. Still, the grant team feels that the effort is worthwhile. Even if we don’t get this grant, other grants for sustainability will become available and much of the work that went into this one can be re-used.
Update: We got turned down. On February 9, the DOE updated the status of our grant application to “Discouraged”. That didn’t prevent us from applying, but it basically said that our proposal wasn’t a good match for their criteria. We won’t pursue this one–there will be other grant programs where we have a better chance.