Ok. You are the Johnny Appleseed of biofuel. You have a plot of land that’s great for growing corn, or you have a great new process for algae biodiesel, or you just want to open up an ethanol fuel station in your hometown. Now, how do you get your project funded? Follow this step by step guide.
Now, how do you get your biofuel project going? In other words, how do you get start up cash? The good news is - there are a lot of opportunities for biomass projects. The bad news is, it’s a competition so you need to play the game right in order to win. You need to plan and prepare, search for funding in the right places, market your project; and finally win funds.
Step One - Plan the Project
Have a plan, specifically a business plan or a statement of qualifications. A well written persuasive document will be necessary. You will need to present your project to many different entities. Your plan needs to be credible and include a description of the project; information on who is running the project; where the project is located; the time line of the project; the benefits of your innovation and the processes associated with your project whether the process relates to agricultural, manufacturing, or construction. Do not forget to include a proposed operating budget. Biofuel is one asset in an emerging competitive business sector so make sure your plan is credible and professional. Start to gather the necessary information and develop a business plan as soon as possible. There is a lot of paperwork involved in getting your project funded, especially due to accounting and transparency requirements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill. A business plan is a way for you to organize the necessary information making it available at a moment’s notice.
Step Two - Prospect for Funding Sources
Just like a prospector looking for gold. Right now federal, state and local governments are spending a lot of money on alternative fuel projects. A good place to start would be the Central Contractor Registration - CCR. Don’t forget to register with your state procurement office and/or the state treasury department. Once registered you have access to funding, bid and proposal announcements; American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding opportunities are all listed in these places.
Another great place to look for funding is through technological councils in your State. Check local Chamber of Commerce offices for more information. Green technology is receiving a lot of attention and councils work very closely with academic institutions that receive federal funding in addition to working with venture capitalists, often giving them tips on viable green projects.
Step Three - Partner with Agencies
Cultivate partnerships. The right partnerships expand opportunities and provide access. For biofuel projects, look at the Department of Agriculture and Department of Transportation, and affiliated state and local offices of Transit Authorities. These partnerships, if cultivated properly, help you fine-tune your project and more importantly provide access to information on funding opportunities before they are formally announced. Partnerships also provide access to bank and government loans.
Currently, agricultural agencies are focused on supporting corn; transportation and transit authorities are focused on hybrid vehicles and ethanol filling stations. Other agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) are focused on clean diesel and biomass. The Department of Commerce is focused on algae as a source of biofuel. Helping these agencies fulfill their missions helps your project; cultivating partnerships is a good way to let them know you can help them fulfill their missions.
Step Four - Go For It
Submit bids, federal grants, RFP - proposals, and/or loan applications to your prospects. Make sure you meet all of the requirements and have appropriately responded to the opportunity; that means responding to each question credibly and persuasively, taking into account the prospect’s overall goals. The document prepared in Step One will be used for this Step.
Step Five - Persist
Getting your project funded requires persistence with partners and government agencies. Continue to cultivate partnerships to get access and information.
Biofuels are a new venture. If you do not win funds the first time around, find out what projects were funded and see where your project could fit in future funding schemes. The Federal Opens Records law requires grant and bid awards are public information; a letter to the funding agency is generally required to find out what project won funds but it is worth getting this information, to use it to fine-tune your green business for the future. All biofuel American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds recently allocated were to support rural businesses and biodiesel technologies.
Recovery Act funds open the government marketplace to you; however, there are many opportunities for biofuel projects out there, especially since US oil prices will be influenced by biofuel not foreign imports in the next twenty years.