Throughout the first quarter of 2012, the 47 Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) State Offices held energy stakeholder meetings across the country to discuss ways the Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) can assist agricultural producers and rural businesses with their energy needs. Meeting participants included local lenders, grant writers, small business owners, and local, state and federal government agencies.
REAP provides loans, loan guarantees, and grants to agricultural producers and small rural businesses who want to purchase and install renewable energy systems (solar panels, wind turbines, flexible fuel pumps, or anaerobic digesters), make energy efficiency improvements (installing irrigation pumps, replacing ventilation systems, or purchasing grain dryers), and conduct energy audits and feasibility studies. Over the past nine years, REAP has helped over 13,000 businesses install renewable energy systems. REAP has also help stimulate economic growth and prosperity in rural America by creating and saving thousands of jobs.
Since President Obama took office, REAP has:
- Supported 5,733 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide
- Generated or saved an estimated 6.5 million megawatt hours of power – enough energy to
power 600,000 American homes for a year
- Provided $192 million in grants and $165 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements
- Fostered partnerships that leveraged an estimated $800 million from other sources
- Helped create or save almost 10,000 jobs throughout rural America
Thanks in part to REAP, since 2008, the amount of renewable energy produced in the U.S. from wind, solar, and geothermal sources has nearly doubled.
ENERGY STAKEHOLDER MEETING HIGHLIGHTS
On March 20, 2012, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack released a 44 page report highlighting the ways REAP contributes to U.S. energy independence and helps rural small businesses and farmers become energy efficient.
In February 2012, USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager hosted a stakeholders meeting in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to discuss renewable energy funding opportunities with a group of 25 participants.
On April 10, 2012, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, along with 40 farmers, small business owners, and energy partners gathered in Mankato, Minnesota to discuss the REAP program. Six hundred and seventy-four projects have received funding in Minnesota since 2003.