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USDA Energy Website Includes New Features

USDA Energy Website Includes New Features
Website details current USDA programs, investments in renewable energy

The USDA on Wednesday launched an updated version of its Energy website to assist stakeholders, public users, state and local government in identifying opportunities, activities and USDA's projects in renewable energy.

The website, which was first launched in January, features enhanced tools such as the USDA Energy Investment Maps, the Renewable Energy Tool, Energy Matrix, Investment Projects Reports, as well as helpful state links to energy resources within individual states.

The new site was designed with suggestions from users in mind. The 2.0 version site will provide new resources and investment data current through August, 2012.

USDA's improved Energy website offers new tools to identify 'renewable energy opportunities'

According to Harry Barnes, director of the USDA Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, some of the enhanced features of USDA's Energy Web include:

Energy Investment Maps:  The USDA Energy Investments Map contains information regarding USDA programs that provide assistance to renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects. The maps display investment location, type of energy investment, amount of assistance provided and the administering USDA program. The energy investment data is summarized by state, county and congressional districts to display total number of investments and total dollar amounts obligated by USDA.

Investment data has been updated to include fiscal year 2012 information. The map legend and data layer, previously designed to toggle between two screens, were combined for easier operation and fast results, and the map description is now in a separate window for efficiency.

Energy Investment Report: This page, formerly named USDA Special Projects Report, provided information on three of USDA's special initiatives: investments in anaerobic digesters; flexible fuel pumps; and wood to energy projects, but the page now enables user access to all energy technologies data that are associated with the Energy Investment Map. 

The data can be sorted by program, year of obligation, payment type, total dollar amounts and state/county/district, providing various project details.  There are pie charts, graphs and report listings.  Another new feature is the ability to print screen reports, and the data can also be exported in various formats.

Renewable Energy Tool:  This tool assists stakeholders in identifying "renewable energy opportunities" by providing access to agricultural, economic, social, and technical data and information resources that are relevant to the evaluation of potential opportunities. Recent enhancements include adding easy-access links to a number of tools available across USDA agencies.

Barnes says next year's enhancements for the mapping feature of the Renewable Energy Tool will include types of data and information that is available, such as: land use for producing biomass and energy crops, cost to produce crops alternative crops, competition for biomass, fuel stations, state and federal policy, USDA guidelines for and financial assistance, and state and federal office locations for agriculture, energy, environmental protection, and conservation. Initially, the focus is transportation fuels.

"We encourage feedback as we are planning additional enhancements over the next year to include access to more data, success stories, additional functionality, and more tools," Barnes wrote in USDA announcement.

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