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USDA Grants Fund 67 Rural Agricultural Energy Audits & Renewable Energy Projects

November 11, 2011 |

The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) announced funding for 67 project nationwide focused on helping rural agricultural producers increase energy efficiency, make use of renewable energy and/or carry out feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. The awards are being made through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

The USDA is awarding more than $2.4 million in energy audits grants and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants, along with more than $1.2 million to support feasibility study projects. In addition to the potential that the funded projects have to help rural agriculture producers cut costs, boost energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, the USDA believes the grants will also help increase rural and agricultural employment.

The grants follow through on a historic agreement Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack signed at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen in 2009 in which the US government agreed to help dairy farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from their operations by 2020.

“The Obama Administration is committed to making America more energy efficient, and in doing so, more competitive by encouraging rural businesses to build renewable energy systems,” Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager said in announcing the awards on behalf of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Pennsylvania meeting of the National Rural Electric Association.

“The projects announced today will provide rural small businesses and agricultural producers the opportunity to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy system installations. Eligible intermediaries, such as universities, will receive funds to conduct energy audits which will lead to energy savings and initiatives that will reduce energy consumption for years to come.”

The Award Recipients

Enhancing energy efficiency in the agricultural sector and rural small businesses was a prominent theme among the award recipients.

Penn State University was awarded a $99,676 grant to carry out a statewide initiative to offer technical assistance and workforce solutions through energy audits. Pennsylvania’s St. Francis University will receive a $100,000 grant to carry out a program to help agricultural producers and small rural businesses reduce energy consumption and costs.

Neighboring West Virginia’s Dept. of Energy was awarded a $100,000 grant to complete 130 energy audits for rural small businesses, while out west, Boise State University will receive a $100,000 grant to provide information and conduct energy audits for more than 1,500 manufacturing-related agricultural producers and small businesses in Idaho.

Among the feasibility studies being funded is a $7,000 award to evaluate the feasibility of substituting biogas for propane in boilers at Arbre Farms in Walkerville, Michigan by installing and operating an anaerobic digester.

“Last year, these same feasibility study funds provided through REAP assisted in a tremendous year of anaerobic digester development and are an important first step in a successful renewable energy project,” Under Secretary Tonsager noted.

“Construction is beginning on four USDA funded digester projects here in Pennsylvania and six digester projects next door in Ohio. These systems will provide additional farm income, contribute to better nutrient management, and produce clean, renewable electricity for thousands of homes in the community.”

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