USDA offers $63M to boost renewables, efficiency

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, August 10, 2015

The Agriculture Department has set aside $63 million in loans and grants for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

USDA will help fund 264 projects through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The department estimates the projects will generate or save 207.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

“This funding will have far-reaching economic and environmental impacts nationwide, particularly in rural communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.

The top loan guarantee, $5 million, was offered to Concord Blue Energy, who was at one time tasked with building a wood-to-biofuel facility for the massive Four Forest Restoration Initiative in Arizona, the largest restoration project in the country (ClimateWire, July 8). Concord Blue could not be reached by publication time for more details on the loan guarantee.

The maximum grant amount was $20,000.

Created in the 2008 farm bill, USDA’s rural energy program was cut nearly in half in the latest farm bill reauthorization and faces even more reductions under the House’s proposed fiscal 2016 appropriations for USDA. The House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee shrank the funding provided in the 2014 farm bill for REAP from $50 million to $35 million, a 30 percent cut (E&E Daily, June 19). The Senate Appropriations Committee did not cut REAP.

The next application deadline for REAP grants is Nov. 2.

Click here for a list of the awards.