As a farmer in eastern South Dakota, I witnessed one of the biggest growth periods in renewable energy in our country’s history.
I saw firsthand how the investments in biofuels benefited rural Americans by creating jobs and capturing wealth locally. Leaders in the community got together, made commitments to invest in renewable energy projects, and shared in the success of the projects once they matured. Read more »
Elizabeth Bonner’s new, energy efficient Kentucky home, funded in part by USDA Rural Development.
To Elizabeth Bonner, the single greatest thing about her new home is the serenity she feels as she sits on her covered back porch, listening to the water as it rolls over the rocks that line the creek bed bordering the back of her property. Read more »
A newly released report Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture. Overview and Policy Issues published by USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, serves as an overview of solar energy use by farmers and ranchers in the U.S. that identifies trends and future potential. According to USDA’s 2009 On-Farm Energy Production Survey, ninety-three percent of farms with on-farm renewable energy production produce solar energy and 8,000 farms have installed a solar energy system on their farm.
On-farm solar energy production has increased significantly in the last decade. Sixty-three percent of solar panels in agriculture were installed from 2005-2009 and the growth rate was almost five-fold from 2000-2009. Solar energy projects funded under USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program also experienced a five-fold increase between 2007 and 2009. The report reviews the regulations and incentives that are available to farmers and ranchers, which has recently boosted installations, and also examines major financial influences.
Recently, I visited Tohono O’odham Community College, in Sells, AZ, one of the tribal colleges that the Department of Agriculture supports around the country to level the playing field and open the doors of higher education to more young people. The Tohono O’odham or “Desert People” live in the Sonoran Desert on tribal lands in the southern part of the state, bordering Mexico. The terrain is flat, dry desert and presents numerous agricultural challenges that USDA helps students address through research and hands-on training, teaching traditional scientific disciplines – but through the lens of the tribe’s needs and culture.
The college is doing a lot of work to keep their tribal language alive, providing language classes for all students. But science professor Dr. Teresa Newberry has taken that to a whole new level by building a Web-based database of plants that is built in three languages: English, Latin and Tohono O’odham. It’s the kind of project that integrates the native culture into learning in a practical, living way. Read more »
USDA funding of biodigester technology, coupled with nearby wind turbines, produce enough renewable energy to power an entire Wisconsin county.
The escalation in prices for energy from fossil fuel has set the stage for the domestic production of renewable energy as a national priority. Not only can the production of renewable energy reduce fossil fuel dependence, but it has the potential to create quality American jobs, combat global warming, and lay a strong foundation for a robust rural economy. This point was not only emphasized in President Obama’s State of the Union address in January, but again upon the President’s recent visit to two Manitowoc, Wisconsin, businesses; showcasing them as leaders in solar power and energy-efficient technology. Read more »