This map shows the alternative-fuel fueling stations in Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of the Department of Energy/Alternatiev Fuels Data Center

This map shows the alternative-fuel fueling stations in Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of the Department of Energy/Alternatiev Fuels Data Center

The State of Pennsylvania has awarded more than $3 million in Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants (AFIG) to 33 companies, counties, and organizations making the switch to compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), or propane for medium and light-weight fleet vehicles.

The grants, which were awarded Nov. 7, will help pay for the conversion or purchase of 351 natural gas vehicles and 337 propane vehicles weighing less than 14,000 lbs. An estimated 15 new fueling stations and 30 existing stations will be supported by these vehicles.

"The 33 AFIG grants allow us to make the most of our abundant natural gas resources," said Chris Abruzzo, acting secretary of the state's Department of Environmental Protection.

The public agencies awarded grant money will use funding for purchases that range from vehicles for municipal operations to school buses. Some are also using them to demonstrate the viability of alternative fuel as a transportation fuel.

One such fleet is the the McCandless Township Sanitary Authority, which will use $21,374 toward the purchase of five vehicles that will operate on propane bi-fuel. The project will determine the viability of propane for municipal fleets in the state.

Philadelphia Gas Works, a city-owned utility, was awarded $240,000 to purchase 50 CNG vehicles to demonstrate the financial viability of CNG as a fleet fuel. The utility set up a website promoting natural gas vehicle adoption.

The state awarded Centre County Commissioners and its partners $70,146 to purchase eight CNG and three CNG bi-fuel vehicles to serve paratransit, police, and public works operations. The vehicle will be used by the County Office of Transportation, Centre Area Transportation Authority, and Ferguson and Patton townships.

The City of Lancaster will use its $29,950 to purchase six CNG vehicles with the goal of improving the air quality in Lancaster County and reducing its fuel costs. These initial CNG vehicles in the city's 115-vehicle fleet should save the city $30,000 annually in fuel costs, reports Lancaster Online.

Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities and its partners were awarded $250,000 to purchase 50 propane school buses for school districts and private bus companies.

AFIG grants are an annual solicitation. This year, AFIG grants focused on medium- and light-weight vehicles. The department will announce the next round of grants in early 2014.

On Nov. 9, the department offered a grant for heavy-duty natural gas vehicles, Abruzzo said. The Act 13 Natural Gas Vehicle grants provide an estimated $11 million for purchase and conversion costs of heavy-duty natural gas fleet vehicles weighing more than 14,000 lbs. These grants are financed by impact fees paid by natural gas operators.

Grant requests can be no more than 50% of the incremental purchase or retrofit cost per vehicle and cap out at $25,000 per vehicle. Applications are due by Jan. 10, and will be awarded in the spring.