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USDA Invests $63M to Support Renewables and Energy Efficiency

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced $63 million in loans and grants for 264 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide that USDA is supporting through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass, small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.

The funding will have “far-reaching” economic and environmental impacts nationwide, Vilsack said, particularly in rural communities. Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects can create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help lead to a more sustainable economy.

These REAP projects are expected to generate and/or save 207.8 million kilowatt hours (KWh) of energy — enough to power more than 13,600 homes for a year, USDA said.

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A family-owned fruit farm in Ohio, for example, is receiving an $18,000 grant to install a photovoltaic solar system, which will generate nearly 13,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The farm grows apples, peaches, pears, plums, raspberries, cherries and grapes.

Another farm in Minnesota is receiving a $19,750 grant to install a 10 kW wind turbine, which is expected to generate 30,000 kWh of electricity per year.

The next application deadline for REAP grants is November 2, USDA said in a statement. REAP was created by the 2008 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Since 2009, USDA has supported more than 9,600 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide through REAP. During this period, the Department has provided more than $291 million in grants and $327 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners.

USDA also has been busy promoting biobased technologies. In June, a new report found that the biobased industry contributed four million jobs and $369 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013. Each job in the biobased products industry generated 1.64 jobs in other sectors of the economy.

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