USDA Rural Development is accepting applications to assist rural farms and businesses with energy efficiency upgrades. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides loan guarantees and grants to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.
Last year, USDA Rural Development invested more than $700,000 in federal grant and loan funding to support energy efficiency projects for agriculture producers and rural businesses across Mississippi. To qualify, agricultural producers must be located in rural or non-rural areas, and at least fifty percent of their gross income must be derived from agricultural operations. Rural small businesses may qualify if they are located in a town or area with a population under 50,000.
Funds can be used for renewable energy systems and alternative fuel systems, or for the purchase, installation, and construction of energy efficiency improvements and equipment. Examples include: biomass, geothermal, and hydropower projects, in addition to wind and solar generation projects.
Uses of funds for energy efficiency projects can include high-efficiency HVAC systems, insulation and lighting improvements, cooling and refrigeration units, electric irrigation conversions, or the replacement of inefficient energy equipment.
Through the program, USDA can offer loan guarantees of up to 75% of the total cost of the project or a grant up to 25% of the total cost of the project. Grants can be combined with a loan guarantee in order to fund larger projects.
The REAP program also provides funding opportunities for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance (REDA) to eligible producers and rural small businesses. These programs help promote energy independence by increasing the supply of renewable energy and decreasing the demand for energy through energy efficiency improvements, helping to lower energy costs over time. These funds can be used for energy audits, site assessments, and technical assistance, assisting with the purchase of office space, travel associated with assessments, and other project-related equipment operating expenses.
The application deadline for REAP is March 31, 2020. Please visit our website at www.rd.usda.gov/ms, or call the State Rural Development Office at (601) 965-5457 to learn more.