Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that USDA is investing more than $6.7 million in 544 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.
“These grants will help farmers, ranchers and small business owners use more renewable energy, which cuts carbon pollution, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, saves businesses money on their energy bills and creates American jobs,” Vilsack said. “All of these are crucial components to developing healthier, more economically vibrant rural communities.”
In Wisconsin, more than $200,000 in grants has been awarded to 14 recipients throughout the State. Grant funds will be used for the acquisition and/or installation of renewable energy systems or in making energy-efficiency improvements to their operations.
REAP was created by the 2002 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million to support more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in grants and loans for almost 2,900 renewable energy systems. For the remaining 5,900 projects, USDA provided $184 million to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers make energy efficiency improvements such as lighting; heating, ventilation and cooling; irrigation; insulation and motor replacements. When fully operational, these projects are estimated to generate and save 7.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually – enough to power more than 660,000 homes for a year.
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.
The awards list announced today is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the grant agreement. A full list of the grants awarded is available at www.rd.usda.gov/files/RDREAPGrantAwards_06_10_15.pdf
USDA Rural Development’s mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. As the lead federal agency for rural development needs, USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, community development, health, education, homeownership and affordable rental housing to improve the lives of people in rural areas and the economic health of rural communities. During the last year, the agency has assisted nearly 9,000 families and businesses in more than 100 communities, investing more than $571 million into rural Wisconsin through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants. Further information on USDA Rural Development programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting the web site at http://www.rd.usda.gov/wi.