Funding Will Help People in Rural Communities Lower Energy Costs, Increase Energy Resiliency and Create Jobs
PAWNEE, Okla., April 11, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small today announced the Biden-Harris Administration is investing $6.6 million across the country to help people living in rural towns develop community-sized renewable energy projects that will help them lower their energy costs and create jobs.
“People from rural areas make up America’s spirit and character and provide the everyday essentials our country depends on, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed in their communities,” Torres Small said. “The investments we're announcing today demonstrate how the Biden-Harris Administration is partnering with rural communities to champion the people living here and improve the quality of life for rural families and build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out."
These grants are part of the Rural Energy Pilot Program (REPP) which allows for community-driven solutions to address high energy costs and pollution through renewable energy systems, including wind, solar, and other technologies like geothermal, micro-hydroelectric and biomass/bioenergy. A portion of the awarded funds may also be used for community energy planning, capacity building, technical assistance, efficiency and weatherization. This program, unique within USDA Rural Development, will provide historically underserved communities with the opportunity to keep essential systems functioning during climate change related extreme weather events and build resiliency directly into their energy infrastructure.
Torres Small announced the new investments during a visit to the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. The Nation is receiving a $2 million grant to install a community-scale solar garden, geothermal system, battery storage, and electric vehicle charging stations. The funding will also provide weatherization planning and implementation through environmental sensor deployment and renewable energy training and certification for tribal members.
The other projects being announced today are:
- The city of Nenana, Alaska will use a $605,521 grant to purchase a woodchipper with conveyors for the city’s biomass district, which includes a school, a recreation center, and a fire station.
- Northwest Arctic Borough will use a $2 million grant to install a solar photovoltaic and battery storage microgrid to provide energy savings, resilience, and reduced climate change impacts to the Native Village of Selawik, Alaska.
- Cooperatives for a Better World will use a $2 million grant to help Navajo Power Home to install stand-alone solar photovoltaic systems with battery storage capacity in up to 100 homes in the Former Bennet Freeze Area in Northeast Arizona. This project will provide long-term energy security to an indigenous community and other low-income households, including seniors and veterans.
These projects follow the announcement of the first REPP award, announced in Puerto Rico earlier this year by USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Farah Ahmad. A central Puerto Rican community was provided a grant of more than $1.1 million to convert its 30-year-old water distribution system into a resilient and autonomous clean energy system running off of 100 solar panels and reducing the CO2 output of the community by 31 tons a year.
The investments support the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making environmental justice a part of every agency’s mission to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans 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, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. To subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit the GovDelivery subscriber page.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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