U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced new funding under the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program under the 2014 Farm Bill. The more than $280 million in funds are open to rural agricultural producers and small business owners to install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.
“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said during a press call this morning. “The funding we are making available will help farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help a business reduce energy use and costs while improving its bottom line. While saving producers money and creating jobs, these investments reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution as well.”
USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round through an REAP application expansion.
Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant. Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.
USDA is offering a second type of grant to aid organizations that help farmers, ranchers and small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000.
Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested. Details on how to apply are on page 78029 of the December 29, 2014 Federal Register or are available by contacting state Rural Development offices.
Listen to the press conference that includes Secretary Vilsack’s remarks as well as comments from Jennifer Womble, owner of James’ Supersave Foods and Jeffrey Marstaller, owner of Cozy Acres Greenhouse, here: USDA Announces REAP Funding