Iowa landowners tops in receiving USDA energy grants

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Iowa landowners have reaped the most from a federal rural energy program, collecting $38 million in grants and $46 million in loans over the past three years, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The funding has been distributed among 1,128 projects for installing solar panels, flex-fuel pumps and wind turbines and improving energy efficiency.

Ohio landowners have received the second-highest amount of funding: about $12 million in grants and $25 million in loans.

Nationwide, the bulk of the funding has gone toward improving the energy efficiency of buildings, irrigation systems, poultry operations and lighting. Over the past three fiscal years, USDA has awarded program funding for 4,070 energy efficiency projects, 937 solar projects and 318 wind power projects.

Nationwide, USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has paid out $192 million in grants and $165 million in loans for 5,733 projects.

In fiscal 2011, USDA began offering REAP funding for flex-fuel projects in a bid to build up the country’s infrastructure for E15 and other ethanol blends. According to the report, USDA has provided funding for 66 projects, installing more than 260 pumps across the country.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today reaffirmed his department’s commitment to the ethanol industry and the introduction of E15 — gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol — into the U.S. marketplace. Over the past year and a half, EPA has granted Clean Air Act waivers to the fuel blend and gone through a series of steps bringing E15 closer to sale in the United States (Greenwire, March 16).

Vilsack called EPA authorization of E15 a “godsend” that would be vital for the ethanol industry.

“Most of the discussions I’ve had with the industry have been on the importance of making sure E15 is embraced and utilized,” Vilsack said. “That obviously would significantly assist the industry, and that’s where our focus is. We want blenders to basically register with EPA, get this E15 into the market, and we want to obviously continue to look for ways to encourage distribution more easily.”