Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide, including 13 projects in rural Oregon.
“These loan guarantees and grants will have far-reaching impacts nationwide, particularly in the rural communities where these projects are located,” Vilsack said. “Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue the unprecedented increase in home-grown energy sources and American energy independence we’ve seen in recent years. This is creating jobs, providing new economic opportunities, and leading the way to a more secure energy future.”
Today’s funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP was created by the 2008 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill.
“As part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, USDA is helping agricultural producers and rural small business owners reduce their energy costs and consumption,” said USDA Rural Development Oregon State Director Vicki Walker. “By doing so, USDA is helping to revitalize rural economies, preserve our natural resources, and protect the environment.”
For example, Rural Development provided Fessler Nursery Company with a $23,852 grant for energy efficiency improvements to their greenhouses near Woodburn, Oregon. This family-owned company produces fuchsias, spring annuals, and bedding plants for both wholesale markets and local families. Heating greenhouses to keep these fragile plants growing year-round in the Pacific Northwest can result in high energy costs. The Rural Development grant will offset 25 percent of the cost to install an energy efficient boiler and floor heating that will reduce the nursery’s consumption of natural gas while also provide an estimated savings of $18,935 per year, helping this company’s bottom line.
In Pendleton, Oregon, a $39,925 grant will offset 25 percent of the cost to install a 50 kW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of a commercial property owned by the property management company WMA Holdings, LLC. The solar panel system is projected to replace 37 percent of this small rural company’s energy usage with a renewable alternative, for a projected savings of $6,389 per year. The tenants—a variety of businesses that include a telecommunication provider, a grain trader, an appraiser, and an attorneys’ office—will also benefit from the installation of this system through more affordable lease rates and more predictable utility expenses.
This announcement comes on a day when President Obama is announcing new executive actions to further advance the development of solar technologies across the country. These new investments in solar will reduce America's energy consumption, cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons—equivalent to taking more than 60 million cars off the road for a year—and save businesses nearly $45 billion on their energy bills. The renewed effort to invest in solar energy also includes commitments from a broad coalition of 50 public and private sector partners, including leading industries, community development organizations, and housing providers in 28 states. To learn more about this new Obama Administration initiative to increase the use of solar power, visit the White House website.
“USDA is proud to play a key role in Obama Administration’s efforts to promote the use of solar technologies," Vilsack said. "Of the REAP projects funded today, 240 projects are for solar investments of $5.2 million in grants and $55.3 million in loans.”
In total, Vilsack announced $68 million in REAP loan guarantees and grants today, including $204,548 in Oregon. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
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 systems.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, REAP has supported more than 8,800 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide. During this period, USDA has provided more than $276 million in grants and $268 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners.
President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses, and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns, and rural communities.