Twelve renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Illinois were recently announced by USDA Secretary Vilsack to receive funding as part of the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The $190,310 will fund solar, geothermal, greenhouse curtains and grain dryer projects.
For example, a grain and hog farmer in Jasper County received nearly $18,000 to install an 11.2 kW solar system at their hog operation. The new system is estimated to offset about 83% of the annual electricity use. A farmer in Jefferson County received about $20,000 toward the cost to upgrade an existing grain drying system, which will result in 38% energy savings annually. In Northern Illinois, Kolze’s Corner Garden received nearly $10,000 to install greenhouse curtains that are expected to lower their energy usage by 43%. The extra shading will also help Kolze’s reduce their water usage for irrigation during the summer months.
"These grants will help farmers, ranchers and small business owners use more renewable energy, which cuts carbon pollution, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, saves businesses money on their energy bills and creates American jobs," Vilsack said. "All of these are crucial components to developing healthier, more economically vibrant rural communities."
REAP was created by the 2002 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million to support more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in grants and loans for almost 2,900 renewable energy systems. For the remaining 5,900 projects, USDA provided $184 million to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers make energy efficiency improvements such as lighting; heating, ventilation and cooling; irrigation; insulation and motor replacements. When fully operational, these projects are estimated to generate and save 7.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually – enough to power more than 660,000 homes for a year.
Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.
The Jefferson County award is part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to target federal assistance to coal communities and workers impacted by changes in the coal economy, where job losses in recent years have continued a decades-long trend. This effort complements the POWER+ Plan proposed in the President’s FY 2016 budget that seeks to invest in new coal technologies, address the legacy costs of coal mining, and help workers and communities reliant on coal mining, power plant, and other coal economy jobs to adapt to the changing energy landscape.