The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems, both on the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico.
The funding is expected to help farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operation, create jobs and help the nation become more energy independent, USDA Chief Tom Vilsack said.
The funding will be available through the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, known as REAP. For Fiscal 2014, USDA plans to award up to $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees. Additional REAP funds provided by the Farm Bill will be made available with a subsequent notice, the agency said..
The USDA is accepting application for: renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantee and grant combinations; renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantee; and renewable energy system and energy system and energy grants.
Request for grants may not exceed 25 percent of a project’s cost — either for stand-alone grant request or for grants combined with loan guarantees.
In Puerto Rico, the program has already benefited several projects, namely Brothers Dairy Inc. in Hatillo, which used a $61,000 grant to install a “grid-tie” photovoltaic system to replace 100 percent of energy consumption currently provided from fossil fuel source. The project was finished in June 2013.
Meanwhile, Bananera Hermanos Marrero Inc., in Utuado used a $37,500 REAP Grant to install a solar photovoltaic system to reduce electrical consumption. The project was finished in July 2013.
“The significance of REAP funding for Puerto Rico is that, aside from preserving the environment, we can be more competitive and sell our products at better prices,” said José Otero-García, Rural Development state director for Puerto Rico. “Hence, we can create or retain more jobs.”