Boulder gym receives one of 12 first-round new energy stimulus grants

A new climbing gym in Boulder that receives 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources on Tuesday received one of 12 grants awarded in the first round of a stimulus program that provides cash to renewable energy projects instead of earned tax credits.

Movement gym, Boulder, Colo.

Movement gym, Boulder, Colo.

Movement Gym’s $157,809 award was the smallest of the awards announced Tuesday — by a long shot. Other first-round awards averaged in the $40 million range. All told, the funded projects amount to a 3-percent increase in renewable energy projects in the United States, according to Matt Rogers, senior adviser for Recovery Act Implementation at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Many remaining awards will more closely resemble the Movement Gym grant, Dan Tangherlini, assistant secretary for management at the U.S. Treasury Department, told reporters during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

That had better be true, otherwise Treasury is far off in its prediction that the program will fund roughly 5,000 projects and cost about $3 billion total. The first 12 projects have already sucked up one-sixth of total predicted amounts, and the program has no cap. As with a tax credit, as long as companies meet the criteria (pdf) and apply before the Oct. 1, 2011, deadline, their projects will be funded.

So far, Tangherlini said, the program has not turned away any applicants, though he pointed out that the program is still in its first month and reviewers are still in the process of asking questions where they have concerns.

Tangherlini also stressed the fact that awards had been made in half the time allowed — roughly 30 days. Awardees will receive the money within the week, he added.

But whether the awards will actually stimulate more investment in renewable energy remains to be seen.

“The new funding creates additional upfront capital, enabling companies to create jobs and begin construction that may have been stalled until now,” according to a Treasury statement announcing the awards.

But as with tax credits, the grants are doled out only to completed projects. So while the Treasury Department may hope that businesses will reinvest the grants in new renewable projects, businesses could also simply use the money to pay back shareholders or make other investments.

Officials expect most of the grants to be made in the areas of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.

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Katie Redding

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