In 2008, Congress established the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Similar to its predecessor (the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program), REAP promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy for agricultural producers and rural small businesses. The program provides grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. It also provides funds to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
REAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through each state’s USDA Rural Development Office. See this map to find information about specific states: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/recd_map.html. Applications for this year’s funds are due at these offices soon (deadlines are typically in June). Check with your local Rural Development Office for specific requirements.
Congress has allocated funding of $70 million each for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. In addition to these mandatory funding levels, there may also be discretionary funding issued each year. Of this funding, approximately 88% is dedicated to competitive grants and loan guarantees for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems. These incentives are available to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems (including systems that may be used to produce and sell electricity) and to make energy efficiency improvements. Funding is also available to conduct relevant feasibility studies, with approximately 2% of total funding being available for feasibility studies. Eligible renewable energy projects include wind, solar, biomass and geothermal; and hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar or geothermal energy sources. These grants are limited to 25% of a proposed project’s cost, and a loan guarantee may not exceed $25 million. The combined amount of a grant and loan guarantee may not exceed 75% of the project’s cost. In general, a minimum of 20% of the funds available for these incentives will be dedicated to grants of $20,000 or less.
The USDA will also make competitive grants to eligible entities to provide assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses “to become more energy efficient” and “to use renewable energy technologies and resources.” These grants are generally available to state government entities, local governments, tribal governments, land-grant colleges and universities, rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and other entities, as determined by the USDA. These grants may be used for conducting and promoting energy audits; and for providing recommendations and information related to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Of the total REAP funding available, approximately 9% is dedicated to competitive grants for energy technical assistance.
USDA has many programs to assist farmers, rural residents, and the nation to respond to energy-related issues and opportunities. These range from basic scientific research to the development and commercialization of new technologies. They include outreach and education, technical assistance programs, financial support for infrastructure, and the adoption of energy-saving products by USDA itself. From more efficient farming techniques, wind farms, and ethanol plants to biochemical and genomics research, USDA is deeply involved in the nation’s quest for energy security.
USDA’s energy related programs are large in scope, and extends among many USDA agencies and mission areas. To help you navigate the maze, USDA has developed The Energy Matrix as a Navigational Aide. The Matrix allows you to search by agency, technology type, and program. To access the Matrix, click here: http://www.energymatrix.usda.gov/
Source: USDA, DSRE and NYSERDA