USDA helps farms and small businesses conserve energy and save costs
WASHINGTON – On May 10, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded 26 grants to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers across rural America conserve energy and develop renewable energy systems, ultimately reducing their carbon footprint, lowering overhead costs and helping to create jobs. The grants are made possible through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps farms and small businesses right-size their energy systems and helps with the installation costs for renewable energy equipment.
“Helping thousands of rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers shift away from fossil-based energy by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions has been one of the most important components of USDA’s climate mitigation investments,” Vilsack said. “Nationwide, Americans are lowering their carbon footprint and energy bills by being more energy efficient and switching to renewable energy, and USDA investments make more of these options available. The Rural Energy for America Program also helps businesses create jobs in their communities through the development and installation of energy efficiency and generation projects. These benefits ripple across the nation as we work toward energy independence and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Thanks to USDA investments in renewable energy projects of all sizes, rural Americans are saving more than 10.4 billion kWh – enough energy to power more than 959,000 American homes annually. USDA has invested $38 billion in electric loans and more than $1 billion for smart grid technologies since 2009, helping build more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving approximately 5 million rural customers annually. Today, more than 2,200 USDA wind and solar renewable electricity generation projects power more than 130,000 homes annually.
REAP provides grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, grants for energy audits, and grants for renewable energy planning and development to service providers who work with farmers and rural small businesses.
Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa., is being selected to receive a $100,000 energy audit grant to provide individualized assessments for improving energy use to agricultural producers and rural small businesses throughout Pennsylvania.
In Athens, Ohio, the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council will use a $100,000 Renewable Energy Development Assistance grant to conduct solar, geothermal and anaerobic digestion site assessments for up to 100 businesses.
Twenty-six recipients are being selected for nearly $1.9 million in USDA grants under today’s announcement. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA has provided more than $11.8 million to 136 recipients of the REAP Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance program, which has benefitted almost 3,000 rural small businesses and agricultural producers. For example, in FY 2011, the Land of Sky Regional Council in Asheville, N.C., received a $99,825 grant to conduct an energy audit program for rural small businesses and agricultural producers throughout the state.
The Council’s Waste Reduction Partner’s team completed 53 energy audits that identified more than $776,000 in savings in annual utility costs. The average annual savings per participant was $14,600. In addition, several participants later applied for and received REAP grants to implement energy-saving measures recommended by the audits.
In addition to the energy audit and renewable energy development assistance funding, REAP has helped finance 10,446 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that have reduced energy costs for rural businesses nationwide from 2009 through 2015. During this period, USDA has provided almost $345 million in grants and $430 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners. When operational, these projects will generate/save an estimated 8.4 million megawatt hours – enough to power more than 760,000 homes for a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of removing more than 1 million cars from the road.