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USDA Celebrates Energy Efficiency with Rural Small Business Owner in Worthington, Minn.

Nikki Gillespie
Release Date
Apr 20, 2016

USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer today visited the Mini Market Lupita, a Mexican grocery store and restaurant that USDA recently awarded $20,000 to help reduce the owners’ energy usage and annual operational costs.

   “REAP funding provides financial assistance to rural small businesses and agricultural producers who are looking for ways to improve energy efficiency,” Landkamer said. “By decreasing the amount of energy used to operate day-to-day business, projects like this will help contribute to a safer and cleaner environment for rural communities throughout Minnesota.” 

   Mini Market Lupita had been using open-faced refrigeration stations and freezer chests for years, which were taking away working capital in annual electrical costs.

   With help from a recently awarded $20,000 grant from USDA, owner Maria Paarga was able to offset the cost of purchasing and installing a new refrigeration and HVAC system.

   The open-faced refrigerators and freezer chests have been replaced with more energy efficient options, such as a walk-in cooler, to help lower annual energy usage and associated costs.

   These energy efficient upgrades are expected to save Paarga approximately 40 percent, nearly $10,000, of her annual electrical costs – equating to over 135,000 kWh (the amount of annual energy produced by 12 households) in energy savings.

   Funding for the project was awarded through USDA Rural Development’s Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). USDA reminds eligible applicants that set-aside funding is available for grant requests less than $20,000 and may offer priority scoring for projects located in underserved areas and/or benefiting underserved populations.

   USDA also guarantees loans for a minimum of $5,000 and maximum of $25 million. Applicants are encouraged to apply through the loan guarantee program for larger-scale projects. Grant and guaranteed loan combinations are also available.

   REAP also provides financing to assist rural small businesses and agricultural producers with conducting and promoting energy audits, and providing renewable energy development assistance through the REAP Energy Audit & Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants. Through an intermediary organization, rural small businesses like Mini Market Lupita and producers can receive assistance for administrative, travel and salary expenses related to energy audits, renewable energy technical assistance, and renewable energy site assessments.

   Since 2009, REAP has helped finance 1,014 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that have reduced energy costs for rural businesses statewide. During this period, USDA has provided almost $34 million in grants and $5 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners in rural communities throughout Minnesota.

   The next application deadline is May 2, 2016. For details on how to apply, visit www.rd.usda.gov/mn, contact USDA Rural Development State Energy Coordinator for Minnesota Ron Omann at ron.omann@mn.usda.gov or (651) 602-7796, or see page 78029 of the December 29 Federal Register.