On June 25, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA funding for 450 projects that help agricultural producers and rural small businesses use renewable energy technologies, reduce energy consumption, and/or conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. In all, the USDA announced nearly $7.4 million in energy grants.
Secretary Vilsack made the announcement while touring family-owned Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, North Carolina. Metrolina has received a REAP guaranteed loan and three grants totaling over $1 million since 2007. In 2009, Metrolina received a REAP guaranteed loan and a grant to construct a wood boiler heating system to supplement and replace the natural gas and fuel used at their 120-acre facility. In addition to heating Metrolina’s greenhouses, using wood chips in the boiler provides an additional market for local lumber mills and logging operations.
Rick Alexander, a Tennessee small business owner, is using a Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant and investing another $325,000 to create the first solar powered business in his county. Electricity is the largest expense for his climate-controlled storage facility. The 260 panel, 60 kW solar photovoltaic system is expected to generate more than 71,000 kWh – enough electricity to meet over half of the energy needs of his business for the next two decades. By also participating in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Generation Partners program, Alexander earns a premium on each clean kW produced, which is more than enough to cover the average monthly cost of electricity for his businesses.
In Mount Hope, Wisconsin, Maurice Nichols was selected to receive a grant to purchase a fuel efficient grain dryer for his farm, saving his business over 42% in annual energy usage. Not only is the dryer fuel efficient, but the fact that it is on site saves in trucking costs as well.
This funding is made available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. (See our post on the 2012 Farm Bill.) REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for rural businesses, which hopefully leads to their sustained growth in the future, and an improved quality of life in rural America.
Just one more example of how the tide is turning toward alternative energy nationwide!