The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just announced a round of funding, in the form of loans and grants, to more than 1100 rural renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide, which are aimed at helping small businesses and agricultural producers reduce both their energy use and costs. The funding will go to finance projects in every US state, as well as in the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Western Pacific.
A total of $102 million in loan guarantees, and $71 million in grants, will be provided by the USDA through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP was created as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, and due to the success of that initiative, Congress re-upped the program in the 2014 Farm Bill, along with a guarantee of at least $50 million in funding annually throughout the life of the five-year bill.
As part of the REAP funding, some $6 million will go to a total of 17 anaerobic digesters in 8 states (California, New York, Maine, North Carolina, Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington, and Ohio), which are estimated to be able to produce and/or conserve 906 million kWh, roughly equivalent to the power consumption of more than 83,600 homes per year.
In North Carolina, Fresh Air Energy XVI, LLC, will receive a $3.8 million loan guarantee for financing a 6.5 MW solar array in Green County, which is expected to generate enough clean electricity to power 1,000 homes annually, and which is just one of several loans the company will receive to expand the state’s adoption of solar energy.
Parker Farms, in Ripley, Tennessee, will receive a REAP grant of $45,000 to help with the financing of a 50 kW solar array that was installed last year, which covers more than 70% of the farm’s annual electricity costs, and which has helped the grain farm lower its average monthly electric bill by $800, saving it nearly $10,000 annually.
In Hawaii, Pearl City’s wholesale bakery “The Patisserie, Inc.” will be awarded a loan guarantee of $256,000, as well as a $128,000 grant, for installing a solar PV system that is expected to produce some 172,000 kW of clean electricity annually, reducing the company’s offsite energy demand by almost 40%.
“More rural business owners and ag producers are incorporating energy-saving measures into their business plans. These actions improve an operation’s bottom line and help reduce its carbon footprint. This funding will help incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology and reduce energy costs. But beyond the local benefits seen by a company saving energy costs and the global benefits of reducing carbon emissions, this funding will also create American jobs by supporting energy production and efficiency installations that are made in rural America.” – Tom Vilsack, US Agriculture Secretary
According to the USDA, since the Obama Administration has been in office, REAP has helped to finance more than 10,700 energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, which have worked to reduce the energy costs for many rural businesses across the country. The USDA has awarded almost $430 million in loan guarantees and about $360 million in grants to rural small businesses and agricultural producers since the creation of REAP, which have helped to generate or save an estimated 8.4 million MWh of energy, the equivalent of powering more than 170,000 average-sized homes for a year, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by almost 5 million metric tons of CO2.
Although the funding has already been announced, recipients must still meet the terms of the grant or loan agreement in order to receive the funding. The USDA is also accepting applications for future REAP funding, and more information about that can be had by contacting a state USDA energy coordinator.