USDA Announces Funding for Renewable and Efficiency Projects

Feb. 10, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that rural agricultural producers and small business owners can now apply for financial resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Applicable technologies include geothermal heating and cooling systems.

USDA is making more than $280 million available to eligible applicants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The agency is offering grants for up to 25% of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75% of total project costs.

Congress reauthorized the REAP program last year, guaranteeing funding of no less than $50 million in annual funding for the duration of the five-year Farm Bill. Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems.

But the most sought-after grants are for solar installations, laments Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) President Doug Dougherty.

“Geothermal heat and cooling installations have only claimed a small percentage of REAP incentive funds available from the USDA. Yet farm operations of all kinds are ideal candidates for geothermal heating and cooling,” he said. “Along with available tax incentives, the REAP Program is a vital initiative that geothermal heat pump distributors, dealers and installers should pass on to their potential customers in the agricultural community.”

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). Energy efficiency improvement projects include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption.

Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested. Details on how to apply are on page 78029 of the December 29, 2014 Federal Register or are available by contacting state Rural Development offices.  (GEO / USDA)