Funding for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects
USDA announced today that more than $280 million will be available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP provides loans and grants for agricultural producers, as well as small business owners, to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. This could include grain-drying energy efficiency upgrades, wind turbines or solar panels that power part of a farming operation, and anaerobic digesters to reduce energy and input costs on dairy operations.
“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The funding we are making available will help farmers and ranchers incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help reduce energy use and costs while improving the bottom line.”
In addition to the funding announcement, REAP has also undergone some program changes.
“Over the course of the last year we’ve made some changes to the way we administer the REAP program to make it more user friendly,” explains Vilsack. This includes three main changes.
“The application is now easier to understand,” adds Vilsack. “With the 2014 farm bill passing we now have stable and secure funding for REAP. We’ve also gone to a year-round application process for loans. It’s a rolling decision-making process so as applications come in they will be accessed and opportunities will be made available for decision immediately.”
Grant applications will still be processed in a defined window. Application deadlines vary by project type. For deadline information, go to farmenergy.org.
The $280 million will be split between grant and loan applications with $80 million dedicated to grants. About $2 million of this is set aside for energy audits.
Grants can cover up to 25% of total project costs and loan guarantees are available for up to 75% of total project costs. For renewable energy projects, the maximum grant amount is $500,000 and the maximum loan is $25 million. For energy efficiency improvement projects, the maximum grant amount is $250,000 and the maximum loan amount is $25 million.
REAP 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 in annual funding for the duration of the five-year bill.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $261 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.
To learn more about REAP, contact your local USDA Rural Development office or go to farmenergy.org.