The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced grants totaling $1.66 million for 14 Maine businesses. The money is intended to help small businesses and agricultural producers lower energy costs and improve efficiency.

Athens Energy in Athens will receive $500,000 to build a biomass-fueled power generation facility that uses wood waste from logging and timberland thinning operations. It also will receive $56,520 to install a feedstock pre-dryer system that uses waste heat from an adjacent biomass generation facility to assist in drying wood chips. Combined, the investments will save more than 80 million kilowatt hours annually, enough to power 7,500 homes.

VGBLADS LLC in Brunswick will receive $500,000 to construct an anaerobic digester/energy production facility at the end of an airport tarmac in Brunswick Landing. The facility will have the capacity to anaerobically digest 51,684 wet tons of organic material annually, while producing 7,884,000 kilowatt hours, enough electricity to power 727 homes.

Several businesses received grants to install new solar arrays and other solar-power infrastructure, including Janel Inc., in Sweden, $29,900; Justice Farm Inc., in Gorham, $8,565; Labrie Farms, in St. Agatha, $49,500; Maine Beer Co. in Freeport, $49,273; Gilles M. Michaud in Caswell, $106,862; North Branch LLC in Monroe, $5,048; Planson International Corp. in New Gloucester, $27,222; Smith’s Farm Inc. in Presque Isle, $227,681; the Wildwood Corp. in Bridgton, $59,301; and Lowe Hardware in Rockland, $19,950.

Additionally, Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner will receive $22,261 for energy efficient improvements, including a new apple packing line. Sparky’s Apiaries Inc. in Hope will receive $1,867 to install a new energy-efficient reverse osmosis system to produce maple syrup.

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