An Athens business will receive more than $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a biomass power generation facility and a feedstock pre-dryer system, the department announced Monday.

The pair of grants were been awarded to Athens Energy LLC, which is among 14 rural businesses that will receive $1.6 million through the Rural Energy for America Program, the USDA said in a press release.

The first grant, $500,000, will go toward building a new biomass-fueled Organic-Rankine Cycle power generation facility that will use wood waste from logging and timberland thinning operations. The proposed system aims to generate enough electricity to power 5,409 homes, according to the release.

Meanwhile, the Athens company also received a second, $56,520 grant to install a feedstock pre-dryer system. That operation would use waste heat from the adjacent biomass generation facility to assist in drying wood chips. That system aims to generate enough electricity for 2,129 homes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release that more rural business owners and agriculture producers are incorporating energy-saving measures into their business plans.

“These actions improve an operation’s bottom line and help reduce its carbon footprint,” Vilsack said in the release. “This funding will help incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology and reduce energy costs.”


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