Farmers and small business owners can now apply for funds to install rural energy efficiency or renewable energy improvements, offered through the new 2015 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP allows farmers, ranchers and other small business owners to save money on their energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, support America’s clean energy economy, and cut carbon pollution.
USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total efficiency and renewable project costs. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round.
Rural energy efficiency improvements eligible for funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.
Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.
USDA is offering a second type of grant to support organizations that help farmers, ranchers and small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000. Applications for these particular grants have been available since December 29, 2014 year and were due February 12.
The REAP program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million in annual;y for the duration of the five-year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kWh annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.
The USDA is making more than $280 million available to eligible applicants through REAP. Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested.