Investment to Help Small Businesses, Farms and Ranches Lower Energy Costs
The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing nearly $400,000 to support rural small business, farm and ranch energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy installations in Montana through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
“Small businesses, farms and ranches are the backbone of our rural Montana communities. USDA’s investment supports local businesses to increase their bottom line and support jobs,” said Montana State Director Charles Robison. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA has been working tirelessly to be a strong partner to rural Montana in building stronger and healthier communities, because we know when rural Montana thrives, all of Montana thrives.”
Fergus Electric Cooperative, located outside of Lewistown, recently received a $26,893 grant to purchase and install a community solar system to help reduce energy costs for its members. Fergus Electric Cooperative serves over 3,800 customers through 4,200 miles of power line. The new solar system will realize $1,900 per year in savings which is enough to power seven homes. USDA’s recent investment leveraged an additional $80,677 in private investment. The cooperative also received a $10 million USDA Rural Utilities Service loan in 2015 and a $74,556 REAP grant in 2018 which leveraged a $223,667 private investment.
“We are excited to move forward on our Phase Two solar array which will be mounted on the roof of our new truck garage. The 70kW generation facility will complement the existing 100kW ground mounted array that was completed in 2017. At Fergus Electric, our solar projects are funded by those members who choose to purchase panels in support of renewable energy generation. The energy that is generated helps offset the member’s bill in the form of a credit each month,” said General Manager Carson Sweeney. “The USDA REAP grants have allowed Fergus Electric members to participate in renewable energy generation while also learning the capabilities of these developing technologies. The kind and professional staff within the USDA Rural Development office have been instrumental in helping us be informed and successful in receiving the REAP grant funding.”
Borderview Bell Ranch, located outside of Opheim, will use a $32,623 grant to replace 70% of its energy use with solar power. USDA’s investment leveraged an additional $97,869 in private investment.
"During these uniquely challenging economic times the looming reality is that projected income from the cattle sector of our business will most likely be lower,” said Borderview Bell Ranch owner Brittany Allestad. “The REAP Grant is helping to fund a solar project that will generate income and lower utility expenses. This will help to ensure a sustainable operation for years to come.”
In Bozeman, Crooked Yard Hops will use a $7,498 grant to purchase and install a solar-powered water pump system. The investment will save the company $450 in annual energy costs. USDA’s investment leveraged an additional $22,495 in private investment.
"With the assistance from this REAP Grant, Crooked Yard Hops will become the first commercial hopyard in Montana, and one of only a handful in the nation, to be completely solar powered,” said owner Jake TeSelle. “The long, hot summer days that make our hops grow will now be what gives them water too. It’s incredibly exciting to know that our hops production is now completely energy independent."
Montana USDA Rural Development staff will host a webinar on Monday, August 31 at noon. The webinar will feature REAP funding, as well as energy efficiency and renewable energy funding opportunities from Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), NorthWestern Energy and Fergus Electric Cooperative. Small businesses, farms and ranches can register for the webinar here.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/mt.
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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.