Agriculture Under Secretary Lisa Mensah today encouraged rural small businesses to apply for loans and grants to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
“Helping rural small businesses save money on energy costs strengthens their bottom line and helps the U.S. become more energy independent,” Mensah said. “It also reduces our country’s carbon footprint, which leads to a cleaner environment and a more secure energy future.”
USDA is accepting Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) applications for: 1) loans and grants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, and 2) grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.
Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. Eligible renewable energy systems include energy from wind, solar, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal, or hydrogen derived from these renewable resources.
Energy audits and renewable energy development assistance grants are available to state, tribal, or local governments; institutions of higher education; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities.
The REAP program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million annually for the duration of the five-year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past seven years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
USDA Rural Development recently gave Superior Pellet Fuels in North Pole, Alaska, a $49,670 REAP grant to buy a mechanical press to produce biomass wood chips. The press can produce nearly 20 tons of wood briquettes a day. It has helped businesses save money on energy costs since it was installed in October 2013. Some businesses had been paying up to $8 a gallon for fuel. This biomass project is a great example of the promise Alaska holds for the production of wood biofuels.
Through the REAP program, USDA has supported nearly 11,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide since the start of the Obama Administration. The Department has provided more than $367 million in grants and $354 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners during this period.
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.