USDA Distributes Millions to Boost Energy Efficiency for Rural Farmers and Businesses

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The funding is appropriated through the Rural Energy for America Program.

The Agriculture Department awarded more than $9 million in funding across all 50 states and Puerto Rico to support efforts around renewable energy and energy efficiency, the agency announced Monday. 

“Lowering energy costs helps rural businesses improve their bottom line and create jobs,” Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Bette Brand said in a statement. 

For fiscal 2019, Congress appropriated $50 million through the Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, which supports America’s rural-based farm and agriculture producers through funding. The grants and investments promote energy efficiency efforts including making improvements to ventilation systems, producing energy audits and supporting the installation of new biomass, hydropower and solar energy systems.

The funds and investments are for small businesses outside of cities or towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants and ranchers and producers with at least 50 percent of their gross income coming from agricultural operations.

Many of this week’s recipients—including all nine from Puerto Rico and 16 of 18 awarded in Washington state—will use this round of REAP funding to install solar array systems in hopes to boost their business. 

For example, USDA highlights River City Books in Alaska, which plans to use its grant of more than $13,000 to build a 15-kilowatt solar system on its roof, which is estimated to reduce electricity costs by $3,800 annually.

“The energy saved by this project is enough to power 2.5 homes for a year,” the agency said. 

Similarly, Copper Cricket Farm in Virginia will use a more than $8,000 grant to install its own roof-mounted solar array. 

“This project will make the farm energy self-sufficient,” USDA said. 

And in Vermont, a logging company will use a more than $12,000 grant to install a kiln drying system that’s more energy efficient and will reduce the cost of processing a cord of wood by 40 percent.

The agency will announce further REAP funding in the coming weeks.