USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers recently encouraged rural small businesses and agricultural producers to apply for loans and grants to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
"These projects create long-term, economic benefits for businesses and rural communities," Rikkers said. "USDA's funding helps promote U.S. energy independence and supports the production of home-grown energy sources. I encourage all eligible applicants to take advantage of this opportunity. These investments can help a small business cut costs, expand operations, hire more workers and provide a better service to the communities in which they operate."
USDA is accepting Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) applications for: 1) energy audit and renewable energy development assistance grants, and 2) renewable energy system and energy efficiency guaranteed loans and grants.
The application deadline for energy audit and renewable energy development assistance grants is Jan. 31, 2017. Applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency grants of $20,000 or less were due by Oct. 31, 2016, for the first funding cycle and March 31, 2017, for the second funding cycle. Applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency grants of greater than $20,000 and all combination grants and guaranteed loans are due by March 31, 2017. USDA will set aside 20 percent of the funds for grants of $20,000 or less.
Applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency grants or for loan/grant combinations that are received after March 31, 2017, will be considered in Fiscal Year 2018, which starts Oct. 1, 2017. Guaranteed loan applications will be reviewed and processed when received, with periodic competitions. In Colorado, interested applicants should contact Don Nunn, email@example.com, (720) 544-2907.
Eligible applicants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency loans and grants include agricultural producers and rural small businesses, which may include tribal business entities, rural electric cooperatives and public power entities. Renewable energy sources include wind, solar, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal or hydrogen derived from these renewable resources. Eligible applicants for energy audit and renewable energy development assistance grants include State, tribal or local governments; institutions of higher education; and rural electric cooperatives and public power entities.
Congress created the REAP program in the 2002 Farm Bill and reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million annually for the duration of the five-year bill. Nationwide, USDA has helped finance more than 12,000 REAP projects since 2009. When fully operational, these projects will generate or save enough energy to power more than 750,000 homes annually, and replace more than 36 million barrels of oil annually.
To read more about USDA's investments in rural America and its successful turnaround, visit USDA's entry on Medium.com, Rural America Is Back in Business.