USDA Rural Development is encouraging Maine’s rural small businesses and agricultural producers to apply or learn more about the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Applications are now being sought for renewable energy system and energy efficiency guaranteed loans and grants.
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) offers Maine’s rural small businesses and agricultural producers a valuable opportunity to become more cost-effective and sustainable in their operations. Installation of renewable or energy efficient systems can significantly reduce a business’s bottom line, offsetting up to 100 percent of its annual energy expense.”
Eligible applicants for renewable energy system and energy efficiency loans and grants include agricultural producers and rural small businesses, which may include tribal business entities, cooperatives and electric utilities. Renewable energy sources include wind, solar, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal or hydrogen derived from these renewable resources. Energy efficiency projects could include upgrades to more efficient motors, adding insulation, HVAC units, and lighting upgrades, among others.
Applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency grants of $20,000 or less are due by Oct. 31, 2016, for the first funding cycle and March 31, 2017, for the second funding cycle. Applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency grants of greater than $20,000 and all combination grants and guaranteed loans are due by March 31, 2017. USDA will set aside 20 percent of the funds for grants of $20,000 or less.
In the previous Fiscal Year, 29 rural Maine businesses and agricultural producers received REAP grants to install renewable energy or energy efficient systems for a total investment of $784,059 in Maine through this Program.
Nationwide, USDA has helped finance more than 12,000 REAP projects since 2009. When fully operational, these projects will generate or save enough energy to power more than 750,000 homes annually, and replace more than 36 million barrels of oil annually.
USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 54 employees working to deliver the agency’s Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rd.usda.gov/me.