Farmers Vie for $200+ Million in USDA Energy Funds

October 27, 2016 01:52 PM
Solar panels at Merrill Farms

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the USDA is investing more than $200 million towards rural businesses – including farms and ranches – to help them save energy costs via renewable energy. The money comes in a variety of loan and grant options.

"Cutting our energy waste is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to help families save money on their energy bills while reducing harmful carbon pollution. Over the course of nearly eight years, the Obama Administration has taken strong actions to advance energy efficiency in our homes and businesses," Vilsack says. "Through efficiency upgrades and private-sector partnerships, America has been able to cut its carbon emissions, create jobs and save families hundreds of dollars at the pump and on their utility bills every year.”

A total of 423 businesses are the latest benefactors of USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). A series of grants and loans will be used to install various renewable energy systems or used to make energy efficiency improvements to their operation. Click here to see the full list of recipients. USDA estimates that REAP has helped reduce energy costs for about 15,000 farms and rural businesses since 2009.

Examples of eligible projects in agriculture include solar panel installation, switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor, replacing energy-inefficient equipment, wind turbine installation, and more.

Additional REAP applications are currently being accepted through March 31, 2017. The only eligible applicants include agricultural producers (must have at least 50% of gross income coming from the operation) and small businesses in eligible rural areas.

The renewable energy system grants range from $2,500 to $500,000, while the energy efficiency grants range from $1,500 to $250,000.

There are a few additional requirements, including:

  • Applicants who apply for a grant only must provide at least 75% of the project cost.
  • When applying for a loan, or loan/grant combination, applicants must provide at least 25% of the project cost.
  • A technical report is required for products costing more than $200,000.
  • Energy efficiency projects will require an energy audit or assessment.

Meantime, the loan terms come in a wide range between $5,000 minimum to a $25 million maximum. Rate, length and terms vary by type, and are subject to USDA approval.

Contact your state’s USDA Rural Development office for more information.

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