USDA Announces Funding for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects

Name
Kate O'Hara
City
Champaign
State
Illinois
Release Date
Feb 17, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that rural agricultural producers and small business owners can now apply for resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. These efforts help farmers, ranchers and other small business owners save money on their energy bills, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, support America's clean energy economy, and cut carbon pollution. The resources are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“This funding allows rural Illinois farmers and small businesses to realize significant economic benefits,” said Colleen Callahan, Illinois Director for Rural Development. “It’s an opportunity to use today’s technology to be more energy and cost-efficient.  That’s one way we can help our producers save money and our rural businesses create more jobs.”

USDA is making more than $280 million available to eligible applicants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  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.

Previous REAP projects in Illinois include:

  • Organic farmers in Jo Daviess County in Northern Illinois, used REAP funding to install a system which converts energy from solar panels to electricity. The owners have saved, on average, $150 per month.
  • Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative (IREC), in the Central Illinois community of Winchester, installed a 500 KW solar facility to help serve its 7,800 members. At full capacity, the solar farm will provide enough electricity for about 170 homes on the hottest day of the year.  This installation was the first utility-scale photovoltaic solar system by a cooperative in Illinois.
  • Safi Sana, Inc. has car wash locations in Catlin, Georgetown and Tilton, all located in Vermillion County in Central Illinois.  In 2012, the owner installed solar photovoltaic systems at each location.  They also installed solar thermal systems at 2 locations.  Between the photovoltaic and thermal systems, on average the owners have saved around $6,000 annually.
  • A grain farmer in Richland County in Southern Illinois, used REAP funding to install 90 solar modules on his 2,700 acre farm. The owner has saved, on average, $320 per month. Adding these panels to his existing 72 previously installed, he has been able to generate 100% of his electricity needs.

Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. Replacing an outdated grain dryer with a new, energy efficient model is an example of an energy efficiency improvement project. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

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. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round.

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 either the IL Rural Development State Office in Champaign, at 217.403.6202 or the IL Rural Development field office nearest you.  Field office locations can be found at www.RD.usda.gov/il .

The REAP program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million in annual funding for the duration of the 5 year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kilowatt hours annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s 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. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.