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6 Options for Financing Your Energy Innovation and Energy Saving Initiatives

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Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 18:59
Created: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 08:56

Are you in the clean energy business? Or perhaps you’re looking to save some money by investing in energy-saving business equipment or a greener facility? If so, you may be wondering what your funding options are.

From loan programs to research and development grants and small business tax incentives, here is a round-up of some go-to resources – most of them online – for financing your green business strategy.

1. Your Local Bank.com – Low-Cost Green Business Loans

Greening your business doesn’t have to break the bank. But if you find that you need help purchasing energy efficient products or building or retrofitting for a greener facility, talk to your bank to see what it can do to help. Many community banks offer low-cost energy efficiency loans to businesses, and some of the larger lenders offer lower interest rates or reduced loan fees if you can show that the loan will be used for green purchases or upgrades. 

2. SBA.gov – Finance Your Green Upgrades

If you don’t qualify for or just can’t find the right financing from your own bank, then you may want to consider a secured loan backed by SBA for financing your green initiatives. For example, you can use proceeds from the SBA 7(a) loan program for construction, renovation, leasehold improvements, and the acquisition of machinery and equipment. This means eligible small businesses can use the loan to purchase Energy Star and other energy-efficient equipment and lighting fixtures, or to retrofit an existing facility.

Likewise, the CDC/504 Loan Program can help small businesses expand with fixed-asset financing for real estate, construction, renovation, and equipment acquisition — including energy-efficiency upgrades. 

The SBA.gov website also includes a listing of state, local, and regional programs that help small businesses become energy efficient.

3. SBIR.gov – R&D Financial Assistance for Clean Energy Development

If your small business is involved in scientific R&D, you may qualify for federal grants under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

SBIR/STTR are federal programs, coordinated by SBA, that award grants (approximately $2.5 billion annually) to fund the R&D necessary to develop innovative technological products that can be brought to market, including those that enable clean energy,. 

Small businesses that win awards in these programs keep the rights to the technology they develop and are encouraged to commercialize the technology, although this end of it must be done without grant money. Eleven federal agencies participate in the program, including the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s an overview of the types of projects funded and how to find out more:

  • SBIR/STTR Grants from the Department of Energy - Each year, the Department of Energy (DOE) invites small businesses to apply for SBIR or STTR grants (up to $150 million and $17 million respectively in 2010). Technical R&D initiatives covered include energy production, energy use, energy sciences, environmental management, and nuclear non-proliferation. The DOE SBIR/STTR website includes comprehensive information for small businesses including current funding opportunities.
  • SBIR/STTR Grants from the Environmental Protection Agency - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also participates in the SBIR/STTR program. EPA gives small businesses an opportunity to compete for funds to develop technology that protects the environment and public health, such as green building, manufacturing innovations, nanotechnology, greenhouse gases, drinking water monitoring and treatment, wastewater and sustainable infrastructure, air pollution monitoring and control, biofuels, waste monitoring and management, and homeland security.

Visit the SBIR/STTR website for more information. This blog also gives an excellent and succinct overview of the program: How the SBIR Program Can Help your High-Tech Smallbiz.

4. Search for Grants on Green.SBA.gov

Another resource worth exploring is the new Green Government Opportunities website. It was originally developed by SBA and the Department of the Navy to make it easier for small businesses to find clean energy contract opportunities with the Navy. The site has since evolved to include federal grant information across the federal government. Visit www.green.sba.gov and select “Green Grants.”

5. DSIRE.org - Get Help from Your State Government 

From sales tax holidays for energy efficient products to green financing programs, check out what’s available in your state via the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

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Type: Community Blog