WASHINGTON — To promote renewable energy in rural areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems. The funding, provided by the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), is aimed at providing farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses with renewable energy options and expand the domestic energy economy.
“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said. “This funding will help farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations, create jobs and help America become more energy independent. When small rural businesses and farmers cut their energy costs with cleaner and more efficient energy, we are both helping their bottom lines and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that affects our climate.”
USDA plans to award up to $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees for the REAP program in the 2014 fiscal year. Applications are being accepted for renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantee and grant combinations; renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantees; and renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants.
The number of farms using renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years, according to the new Census of Agriculture. More than 57,000 farms reported using a renewable energy system in 2012, compared to 23,451 farms in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63 percent of renewable energy systems on farms. Approximately 36,331 farms have reported using solar panels.
For more information on how to apply for REAP funding and on the application deadlines, visit page 25564 of the May 5, 2014 Federal Register.