U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD) Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund today announced USDA is encouraging rural small business owners to apply for assistance through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP helps small rural businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.
"Developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural Alaska," Nordlund said. "REAP grant funding will assist rural Alaskan businesses to save energy dollars, which can be redirected to business expansion, job creation and increasing the bottom line."
USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will accept and review loan and grant applications year-round. For grant applications to be considered for fiscal year 2015 funds, applications need to be submitted by either April 30 or June 30. Grant applications received after June 30 will be considered with fiscal year 2016 applications. Guaranteed loan applications need to be received by August 1 to be considered for fiscal year 2015 funds.
Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.
Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.
For example, in 2014, the owners of the Agate Inn in Wasilla, used REAP funds to complete installation of a solar array which converts energy from solar panels into electricity. This project along with previous energy efficiency upgrades is expected to save their business around 40 percent of their annual energy cost. The REAP allows small businesses and agriculture producers to take advantage of the best practice of pursuing energy efficiency as a first step towards energy savings, as well as incorporating a renewable technology.
USDA is offering a second type of grant, the REAP Energy Audit & Renewable Energy Development Assistant Grant, to support organizations that help small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000. Applications for these particular grants have been available since December 29 of last year.
Created under the 2008 Farm Bill, the REAP program was reauthorized in 2014 with $50 million in annual funding. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kilowatt hours annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.
Details on how to apply are on page 78029 of the December 29, 2014 Federal Register, or are available by contacting Mr. Chad Stovall, USDA-Rural Development Alaska’s Business Programs State Rural Energy Coordinator at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or at: (907) 761-7718.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.