June 16, 2015
On Wednesday, June 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of $6.7 million in 544 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects through the farm bill’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP grants and loans help farmers, ranchers, and small business owners reduce energy use and develop and install renewable energy sources.
Among the awards announced last week, Capay Hills Almond Orchard received $20,000 to to install solar panels at their 1,400 tree organic orchard; Say Hay Farms in Yolo County, California also received $20,000 to install solar panels on their diverisified organic operation; and Coveyou Farm, a centennial farm near Petosky, Michigan, received $12,000 to install geothermal and solar energy systems for their greenhouses. You can download the full list of REAP awards from the USDA website.
How the Program Works
REAP offers two types of funding: guaranteed loans and grant funding to producers and small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements; and grants to third party entities like state governments and rural electric cooperatives to conduct energy audits and provide renewable energy development assistance to small businesses and agricultural producers. Wind, solar, biomass, digesters, and geothermal are among the energy systems that can be funded by REAP. For eligibility information, visits NSAC’s Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs.
Eligibility and Upcoming Deadlines
For fiscal year 2015, applicants requesting renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants or a combination grant and guaranteed loan must apply no later than June 30. For farms and small businesses seeking a federal guarantee of a private loan but no grant, there is a rolling deadline of the first business day of each month, starting with the first month when at least eight applications have been received.
Individuals interested in applying should contact their state’s renewable energy coordinator.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million to support a multitude of REAP projects nationwide. Congress created REAP in the 2008 Farm Bill by combining the 2002 Farm Bill’s Energy Efficiency Improvements and Renewable Energy Systems Program with an amended version of another 2002 Farm Bill program for grants for energy audits and assistance in using renewable energy technology and resources. Unlike the 2008 Farm Bill, which provided REAP with only five years of funding, the 2014 Farm Bill established a permanent funding baseline of $50 million per year for the program. This funding stream will continue so long as it is not cut in future appropriations or farm bills.