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Category: Energy

Rural Electric Cooperatives: Leaders in Renewable Energy

America’s rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 42 million people living and working in rural communities across the country. Co-ops, with support from USDA, have embraced renewable energy production. Today, they deepened that commitment by announcing new solar projects that will generate more than 150 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020.

At an event in California, President Obama was joined by two West Coast industry leaders—Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) based in Portola, California, and Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC), based in the state of Washington—to highlight industry efforts to expand renewable energy production.

USDA has been an advocate and partner in co-ops’ efforts to diversify their portfolios and expand their renewable fuel sources. Since 2009, USDA has funded over $1 billion in renewable energy projects that will generate  more than 447 MW – enough energy to power 160,603 American homes annually. Read more »

Renewable Energy: Bringing New Opportunities to Indian Country

A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

In rural communities across the country, USDA Rural Development is bringing new energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities to Indian Country.

Choggiung Limited, a Native American Corporation in southwest Alaska, received a $20,000 energy assistance grant from USDA Rural Development to install a wind turbine at the courthouse in Dillingham – a Native-owned building and leased to the state – that has reduced its energy costs by 80 percent and is saving Choggiung about $20,000 a year.  Choggiung is a for-profit Native corporation serving Tribal residents in Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek, Alaska. “This wind turbine marks a new approach to sustainable business management and renewable energy in Dillingham,” Choggiung CEO Doug Calaway said.

In the southwest, USDA awarded the Arizona-based Navajo Tribal Utility Authority a $100,000 grant to conduct energy audits that helped farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the Navajo Nation make their operations more energy efficient and economical. Read more »

Our Changing Climate – Third National Climate Assessment Released

Mississippi River flooding in 2011. The Third National Assessment of climate, released today found that climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past forty years and are projected to increase over the next twenty five years. Photo Credit: Lance Cheung, USDA OC

Mississippi River flooding in 2011. The Third National Climate Assessment, released today found that climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past forty years and are projected to increase over the next twenty five years. Photo Credit: Lance Cheung, USDA OC

The Third National Climate Assessment Release (NCA) report was released today.  The report was written by 240 authors who worked in author teams reflecting their expertise, who also selected additional contributing authors, including several scientists and experts from USDA.

The report is similar in many respects to previous climate assessments.  The authors conclude that climate change is already happening across the United States. The report documents ways climate change is altering agriculture and forestry systems across the country and evaluates how these systems are likely to be affected in the future.

The authors found that climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past forty years and are projected to increase over the next twenty five years. By mid-century and beyond, these impacts will be increasingly negative on most crops and livestock. Read more »

USDA Helps Syrup Producers Cut Back on Energy Use but Not Sweetness

A youngster enjoying how maple syrup is made. NRCS photograph.

A youngster enjoying how maple syrup is made. NRCS photograph.

In New England – or anywhere for that matter – nothing says the weekend like a short stack fresh off the griddle, covered by its inimitable mate, maple syrup. Whether the color is dark amber or golden light, the flavor is unmistakable. But as we pick up our forks and dig in, how many of us really think about where it comes from or how it’s made?

Did you know the most common tree used is the sugar maple? It grows mostly in the Northeast and Canada.

Production of maple syrup continues to climb, and according to data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Connecticut saw an increase in maple sugar production with a record 78,000 taps in 2013. Read more »

USDA to Co-Host Pacific Northwest Wood-to-Biofuel Conference

In conjunction with Washington State University Extension, USDA is co-hosting the Northwest Wood-Based Biofuels/Co-Products Conference in late April. The conference will be April 28-30, 2014 in Seattle, Wash.

The goal of the conference is to bring together the community of researchers, business leaders, government agencies, and economic development personnel to share and exchange research findings, ideas, and strategies for the common goal of sustainable development of wood-based bio-refineries for production of biofuels and co-products in the Pacific Northwest. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Helps Fund Harvard Forest Green Energy Project

Harvard Forest staff renovated a pole barn to house the boiler room and modern wood shop. The new boiler room (left side of the building) contains three wood gasification boilers, a 2,500-gallon thermal storage tank, a propane-fired backup boiler and associated pumps and system controls. The sloped roof on the left of the building provides a dry storage area for racks of firewood prior to loading in the boilers. (U.S. Forest Service/Rob Clark)

Harvard Forest staff renovated a pole barn to house the boiler room and modern wood shop. The new boiler room (left side of the building) contains three wood gasification boilers, a 2,500-gallon thermal storage tank, a propane-fired backup boiler and associated pumps and system controls. The sloped roof on the left of the building provides a dry storage area for racks of firewood prior to loading in the boilers. (U.S. Forest Service/Rob Clark)

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the dedication ceremony for the Harvard Forest Wood Energy Project, an exciting venture partially supported by the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area. This woody-biomass heating system will support 50,000 square feet of the central campus buildings and five dormitories, replacing fuel-oil with renewable firewood that comes from Harvard Forest, a 3,500-acre laboratory and classroom in Petersham, Mass., and owned by Harvard University.

A unique aspect of this project is that it is at the heart of a long-term forest carbon research project. Not only are carbon flows in the Harvard Forest where the wood for the new energy system will come from already being closely studied, but now every aspect of the new installation will be very closely monitored and studied as well. Read more »