Several months ago, Vice President Biden said: “I’m pleased to report that the administration is laying the foundation for a clean energy economy that will create a new generation of jobs, reduce dependence on oil and enhance national security.” If you want proof, check out USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). USDA Rural Development awards grants through this Farm Bill program on a competitive basis and they can be up to 25 percent of total eligible project costs. Grants are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. The program also provides loan guarantees.
Alaskans are already benefiting.
Last week, I went to Fairbanks to announce a grant which will enable Rivendell LLC to increase energy efficiency in a 5,500 square foot commercial building. The funding will be used to provide a “complete building envelope,” roofing insulation, and electrical upgrades. These improvements represent a $200,000 upgrade with an investment from USDA of $50,000.
Last year, two Homer bed and breakfasts received funding to build small wind turbines on their property. Electricity that they produce above their needs will be sold to Homer Electric Association.
Later this summer, Choggiung Ltd., a Native village for-profit corporation, will use grant funds to help purchase a wind turbine for the State Court House building in Dillingham. The tribe owns the building and the State leases it. This turbine will displace a projected 65.7 percent of the building’s annual electrical consumption at a cost savings of $15,000 to $20,000 per year. “With the $20,000 REAP grant award from Rural Development, this wind turbine will mark a new approach to sustainable business management and to renewable energy in Dillingham,” said Doug Calaway, CEO. “We not only look forward to our return on investment in 4 to 5 years, but we also look forward to evolving local education in energy systems and inspiring local officials to take similar actions for municipal facilities.”
Overall, we were able to support eleven projects in 2009, representing over $600,000 of efforts to reduce or replace energy. This year we are on track to easily double that amount.
If you think your business or project is too small to benefit from this program, consider this: At least 20 percent of the grant funds awarded must be for amounts of $20,000 or less. Grant requests as low as $2,500 for renewable energy systems and $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements will be considered. We also fund loan guarantees which can be used in conjunction with the grant awards. To find out more about how this grant and loan guarantee program can benefit your business, contact any Rural Development state office and ask to speak to the energy coordinator.
The Alaska Court building in Dillingham, owned by A Native village corporation, will see energy savings of up to $20,000 a year following installation of a wind turbine funded through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.