USDA solicits REAP applications

By Erin Voegele | October 19, 2016

On Oct. 18, the USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service announced it is accepting applications for the Rural Energy for America Program, which can help agricultural producers and rural small businesses install renewable energy systems.

REAP offers two types of funding assistance. The program’s renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement assistance provides grants and loan guaranteed loans to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to install renewable energy systems and make energy efficient improvements to their operations. Eligible renewable energy systems include renewable biomass, including anaerobic digesters, biodiesel, ethanol, and solid fuels, along with wind, solar, hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal, or hydrogen derived from these renewable sources. The program also offers energy audit and renewable energy development assistance grants, which are available to a unit or instrumentality of state, Tribal or local governments, along with institutions of higher education, rural electric cooperatives, public power entities or councils.

 “These projects create long-term, economic benefits for businesses and rural communities,” said USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers. “USDA’s funding helps promote U.S. energy independence and supports the production of home-grown energy sources. I encourage all eligible applicants to take advantage of this opportunity.  These investments can help a small business cut costs, expand operations, hire more workers and provide a better service to the communities in which they operate.”

Applications for energy audit and renewable energy development assistance grants are due Jan. 31. Applications for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency grants of $20,000 or less are due Oct. 31 for the first funding cycle and March 31 for the second. Applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency grants of greater than $20,000 and all combination grants and guarantees are due March 31. According to the USDA, it will set aside 20 percent of the funds for grants of $20,000 or less. The agency also said applications for renewable energy system and energy efficiency grants or for loan-grant combinations that are received after March 31 will be considered in fiscal year 2018, which starts Oct. 1, 2017. Guaranteed loan applications will be reviewed and processed when received, with periodic completions.

REAP was created by the 2002 Farm Bill and reauthorized by the 2012 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of at least $50 million annually for the duration of the five-year bill. For renewable energy system grants, the minimum grant is $2,500 and the maximum is $500,000. For energy efficiency improvement grants, the minimum grant is $1,500 and the maximum is $250,000. For renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvements loan guarantees, the minimum REAP guaranteed loan amount is $5,000 and the maximum amount of a guaranteed loan to be provided to a borrower is $25 million. For renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvements guaranteed loan and grant combination applications, awards cannot exceed 75 percent of eligible project costs, with any federal grant portion not to exceed 25 percent of the total eligible project costs, whether the grant is part of a combination request or is a grant-only. The maximum aggregate amount of energy audit and renewable development assistance grants awarded to any one recipient cannot exceed $100,000 for federal fiscal year 2017.

The USDA has helped finance more than 12,000 REAP projects since 2009. Additional information on applying for REAP funds is available on the Federal Register website and the UDSA website.