Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that USDA has selected for funding 450 projects nationwide that are focused on helping agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption and costs, use renewable energy technologies in their operation, and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects.
Funding is made available through the Rural Energy for America Program, which is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.
"The Obama Administration and USDA are helping agricultural producers and rural small business owners reduce their energy costs and consumption – and by doing so is helping to create jobs, preserve our natural resources, protect the environment and strengthen the bottom line for businesses." said Vilsack.
Secretary Vilsack made the announcement while touring Metrolina Greenhouses, a family-owned plant and services company in Huntersville, NC, that has received a REAP guaranteed loan and three grants totaling over $1 million since 2007. In 2009, Metrolina received a combined REAP guaranteed loan and grant to construct a wood boiler heating system to supplement and replace the natural gas and fuel it uses at the 120-acre facility. In addition to heating Metrolina's greenhouses, using wood chips in the boiler provides an additional market for local lumber mills and logging operations.
In Mount Hope, Wis., located in the Southwest corner of the State, Maurice Nichols was selected to receive a grant to purchase efficient grain dryer for his farm, saving over 42 percent in annual energy usage. Whispering Pines Poultry in Centre, Ala., was selected to receive a grant to replace four propane heaters with renewable biomass wood pellet heaters to improve heating efficiency of the poultry houses. It is anticipated that the change will result in a yearly energy savings of over $3,000 per barn.
Tennessee small business owner Rick Alexander is using a REAP grant and investing another $325,000 to use green power for his storage facility. The 260 panel, 60 kW solar photovoltaic system is expected to generate more than 71,000 kWh, enough electricity to meet over half of the energy needs of his business for the next two decades. By also participating in the Tennessee Valley Authority's Generation Partners program through Columbia Power and Water, Alexander earns a premium on each clean kW produced, more than enough to cover the average monthly cost of electricity for his businesses.
This week's announcement includes $412,304 in grant funding to 20 agricultural producers and rural businesses to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems.
REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for businesses. In all, USDA announced nearly $7.4 million in energy grants this week.