USDA highlights renewable energy investments

By Jodi Delapaz

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 12, 2016 - Since 2009, the Agriculture Department (USDA) has helped thousands of small rural businesses, farmers and ranchers transition from fossil fuel-based energy to renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a recent blog post.

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The department's investments in renewable energy projects of all sizes allowed rural Americans to save more than 10.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), enough energy to power more than 959,000 American homes, Vilsack said.

“USDA has invested $38 billion in electric loans and more than $1 billion for smart grid technologies since 2009, helping build more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving approximately 5 million rural customers annually,” he said, adding that some 2,200 USDA wind and solar projects are powering more than 130,000 homes annually.

The blog post also highlighted USDA's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provided over $365 million in grants and over $440 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners, financing over 11,000 projects since 2009. Vilsack said REAP projects are generating and saving power equivalent to removing more than 1 million cars from the road.

In the forestry sector, Vilsack said USDA has invested nearly $1 billion through grants, loans, and loan guarantees to support over 230 wood energy projects, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, supporting rural economic growth and advancing forest restoration.

“Our nation's farming and ranching communities continue to lead the charge towards a more sustainable future,” he said. “Stay tuned for more this year when we will look at how USDA investments in renewable energy helped the United States move closer to a clean energy future and healthier planet for our children.”

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