Federal funding for clean energy projects to strengthen U.S. farms

Jacks Solar Garden InSPIRE

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing more than $120 million in renewable energy projects in 44 states. The funding is aimed at lowering energy costs, generating new income and creating jobs for U.S. farmers, ranchers, agricultural producers and rural small businesses.

Most of the projects are being funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, through the Rural Energy for America Program. This initiative advances President Joe Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda to grow the U.S. economy by increasing competition in agricultural markets, lowering costs and expanding clean energy.

“Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is committed to ensuring farmers, ranchers and small businesses are directly benefitting from both a clean energy economy and a strong U.S. supply chain,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The investments announced today will expand access to renewable energy systems and domestic fertilizer, all while creating good-paying jobs and saving people money that they can then invest back into their businesses and communities.”

This announcement comes just weeks after the USDA selected Midwest Electric Cooperative, located in Grant, Nebraska, and the Village of Emerson, Nebraska, as two of its first applicants to move forward in the awards process through the Powering Affordable Clean Energy program. Midwest Electric Cooperative will build solar renewable energy resource facilities and energy storage systems for the communities in Wallace, Grant, Paxton and Lakeview. The Village of Emerson plans to use the funds to finance a solar facility that will distribute clean energy to the Winnebago Tribe.

Rural Clean Energy Production

Through the REAP program, USDA provides grants and loans to help ag producers and rural small business owners expand their use of wind, solar and other forms of clean energy and make energy efficiency improvements. These innovations help them increase their income, grow their businesses, address climate change and lower energy costs.

The REAP program is part of the Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.

These investments will cut energy costs for farmers and ag producers that can instead be used to create jobs and new revenue streams for people in their communities. For example:

  • In Maine, Moorit Hill Farm will install a 40.95 kW roof mount solar system. The system will save the farm more than 50,000 kWh per year, which is equivalent to approximately 100% of the farm’s energy use.
  • In California, Crystal Farms Local Solar II LLC will use a $520,000 Rural Development investment to assist the agriculture producer in San Joaquin. The project funds will be used to help offset the costs associated with installing an energy efficient solar photovoltaic system. The system is estimated to produce 2,877,238 kWh per year.
  • In Indiana, Stephen Sanders’ turkey farm in Dubois will install a 51.84 kW solar array. The array will generate 70,322 kWh annually, saving the business $7,190 per year.

USDA is making the REAP awards in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Since the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA has invested more than $1.8 billion through REAP in over 6,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements that will help rural business owners’ lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen their resiliency of operations.

USDA continues to accept REAP applications and will hold funding competitions quarterly through Sept. 30, 2024. The funding includes a dedicated portion for underutilized renewable energy technologies. For additional information on application deadlines and submission details, see page 19239 of the March 31 Federal Register.

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