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Photos and article by Mary Alice Murphy

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, representatives from the New Mexico office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture traveled to Silver City to present certificates of completion to area entities, public and private, who have benefitted from using the Rural Energy for America Program.

Jane Janson, director of the Small Business Development Center at Western New Mexico University, served as moderator.

She said how pleased the community is to have the REAP program benefitting the area.

Silver City Councilor Lynda Aiman-Smith welcomed the group.

"On behalf of Mayor (Ken) Ladner and other elected officials, we give you a hearty welcome. I am particularly pleased, as I am a strong proponent of renewable energy. Our town Sustainability Plan is part of what the town wants to attain, with a large component of conservation, energy efficiency and to bring in renewables. I am struck with the commitment on your part for renewable energy. I have great admiration for your program and those who make it possible, and those who administer it and use it."

Silver City Town Manager said he appreciates the program. "I've been a proponent since the program began and now you have it for businesses, too."

Richard Carrig, director of USDA rural development, said he is glad the agency has been able to assist. "Our mission is to improve the quality of life in rural areas. We are pushing 60 programs in the agency. Many are grants, loans or grant-loan combinations, with a guarantee. I am representing the Rural Business and Cooperative Division. We have programs that benefit communities and non-profits, including water and wastewater, city and county buildings, as well as law enforcement and fire departments and hospitals."

He said a division focuses on housing. "Some housing funding provides low-interest loans for safety and health reasons."

Carrig introduced the staff that had accompanied him, including Kim Yong, Kathy Barrett out of Las Cruces, coordinator Pat Navarette and Ernie Watson, communications.

REAP is a combination grant and grant-loan, with a 25 percent match required for qualified projects in solar, biomass, wind and hydro energy. The grant can be used to make energy efficiencies for small businesses, farmers and ranchers, as well as counties and municipalities.

The guaranteed side involves a partner, a lender for the larger sized loans. It allows business expansion for energy efficiency. "It's an area we feel is missed a lot," Carrig said.

Letters from the congressional delegation were also read. Sen. Tom Udall in his letter said the Southwest New Mexico Green Jobs and Task Force was the first of its kind in New Mexico and the nation. "These projects show rural New Mexico can lead in energy efficiency. "

Congressman Steve Pearce said he believes in studying "all of the above" when it comes to energy. "In New Mexico, we are poised to be a leader in renewable energy."

The first certificate of completion went to Dolce Vita. Dr. Brian Robinson is the owner of Dolce Vita, also known as the Southwest Bone and Joint Institute. He received a REAP grant to offset the cost of installation of a solar system at his office. Office Manager Mike McMillan accepted the recognition on behalf of Robinson. McMillan said: "The staff made it easy to accomplish."

Dr. Jonathan Beck of Hidalgo Medical Services was represented by Taylor Selby of Affordable Solar to accept the award.

Grant County Commissioner Gabriel Ramos received the certificate for the solar system to power the 2014 North Hurley wastewater lift station. It was the first in the nation to use REAP for such a project. Ramos said the county has other projects in the works that they are looking forward to continuing.

No one attended to receive the award for MKK Investments, owned by Michael Morones and William Knuttinen. They installed two solar systems on two commercial rental properties.

Robert Rydeski of Rydeski and Company received a certificate of completion for installing a 22 kW solar photovoltaic system for his office building.

Brown accepted the award for a REAP grant to conduct energy audits of city buildings, while promoting energy audits to other businesses through education and example. Brown said it was hard to educate people. "We have struggled to get people to understand the big successes we have seen. We will continue to work with USDA. It can have a huge benefit."

Pam Archibald represented Western Bank of Lordsburg, which received an award for installing photovoltaic systems on three of the bank's locations. "It provides great shade parking, too," Archibald said.

Dr. James Skee received five awards for installing solar power systems at five different health care clinics, at Byard Health Care Resources, Copperas Health Care Resources, Gila Health Care Resources, Mimbres Health Care and Mis Amigos, a pet care center.

"I'm a numbers person," Skee said. "Taylor talked to me. I do spreadsheets and the funding worked for the practices and buildings."

Also recognized by USDA was Janson for her help and promotion of renewable energy.

"We work together with the USDA," Janson said, as she also recognized her colleague Mario LaFragola. "We help grow New Mexico's economy, one business at a time."

Live from Silver City

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