A Puerto Rican coffee and banana farmer in Utuado is among the 424 projects recently chosen to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop renewable energy projects on their premises to reduce their energy consumption and costs.
The funding will come from the agency’s Rural Energy for America Program, which granted farmer Angel Delgado $101,375 to install an 81 kilowatt photovoltaic system to replace 75 percent of his fossil fuel energy source, the USDA’s Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien told this media outlet during an interview Friday, when the funding round was announced.
“Today we were able to announce projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico and we’re able to announce a great example of a great project in Puerto Rico,” he said, noting the USDA’s assignment represents about 25 percent of the project’s cost.
“We’re glad we have a project in Puerto Rico that’s able to take advantage of this program,” he said.
The USDA’s REAP initiative aims to provide assistance for agricultural producers and rural small business owners to save energy, promote renewable energy creation, and boost the bottom line for their operation.
REAP offers financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other private funding sources for businesses.
The most recent round of funding distributed more than $14 million in grants and loan guarantees to business owners in 22 states, the Western Pacific, the USVI and Puerto Rico. Since the start of the Obama administration, REAP has helped fund more than 8,250 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.
The REAP initiative is significantly funded by the Farm Bill, which is currently in the hands of Congress waiting for approval.
“We wouldn’t be able to do nearly as many of these projects without Farm Bill funding,” O’Brien said. “I’ve seen a number of these projects and I think it’s reaching a critical mass where more small business farmers understand the opportunities that small renewable energy systems or energy efficiency systems can bring to their farms and small businesses.”
“Now is not the time to slow down that momentum because this is a great strategy with resources from Farm Bill, which we hope will be passed in Congress. We’re only funded through January 15. right now,” he said.
These renewable energy projects are achieved essentially through public-private partnerships each time.
“The federal side has helped make happen projects that are good ideas but without important grant dollars they can’t quite be penciled out. We want to see a Farm Bill approved soon,” he said. “The great thing about the REAP initiative is that is supports and meets farmers [at the stage of development] they are at. It’s a very flexible program.”