The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is awarding more than $517,000 in grants to help 16 rural small businesses and agricultural producers in Oregon reduce their energy usage and costs in their operations announced State Director Vicki Walker today. The funding is being provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and will be used to make energy efficiency improvements and to install renewable energy systems.
“One of USDA’s primary efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change has been to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers make the switch to using renewable energy systems and energy-saving measures,” said Walker. “Taking this step will help improve an operation’s bottom line while reducing its carbon footprint. At the same time, these grants will also support the broader rural economy by encouraging renewable energy installations and creating jobs.”
The Central Electric Cooperative in Bend, Oregon, is being awarded a grant of nearly $87,000 by USDA to install two 99.5-kilowatt solar panel arrays. Formed in 1940, this rural transmission and distribution electric cooperative today serves more than 25,000 members. By installing this renewable energy system, they will be able to generate 306,521 kilowatt hours of solar electricity per year, which is enough to power 29 homes.
The IronHorse Lodge, currently nearing completion, will provide 26 units of affordable housing for low-income seniors in a mixed-use community located on a former working ranch just outside of Prineville, Oregon. With a REAP grant of $13,000, they are installing a solar thermal energy system to provide approximately 70 percent of the facility’s annual hot water needs. This renewable energy system is expected to generate 99,413 kilo British thermal units of energy per year, saving the business $3,350 annually.
The funding for these Oregon projects is part of a nationwide announcement of $43.2 million in loan guarantees and $11.6 million in grants for 821 projects across the nation. Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
Since 2009, REAP has helped finance more than 11,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide that have reduced energy costs for roughly 15,000 rural businesses, helping to reduce their use of fossil-based energy by 1.4 billion kilowatt hours, enough to power more than 959,000 homes annually. Congress reauthorized REAP in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of at least $50 million annually for the duration of the five-year bill.