USDA provides $7.4 million in REAP funds for farmers, rural businesses

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



HUNTERSVILLE, NC. June 25, 2012 - What do farmers, an orthodontist and a scuba shop owner all have in common?  All are recipients of USDA Rural Development grants, announced today under the Rural Energy for America Program. 

Touring in North Carolina, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA's REAP will provide loans and grants for 450 projects totaling almost $7.4 million. The program was first approved in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Rural recipients can use the funding to replace outdated and inefficient equipment with renewable energy technologies. REAP grants can provide up to 25 percent of the cost of making energy efficiency improvements.

The funds are targeted at a wide variety of projects across Rural America. For example, today's announcement included a combination loan and grant, totaling $331,958, for Illinois farmers Todd Randecker and Norman Byers to cover 75 percent of the cost to upgrade a grain drying system.  Grants of about $35,000 for Tucson orthodontist Andrew Rosen's facility in Sierra Vista, Arizona and $20,000 for Jack's Diving Locker in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii will be used for “solar arrays” that can reduce electricity use.

"The Obama Administration and USDA are helping agricultural producers and rural small business owners reduce their energy costs and consumption - and by doing so is helping to create jobs, preserve our natural resources, protect the environment and strengthen the bottom line for businesses." said Vilsack. "This is part of the Administration's "all of the above" energy strategy. Stable energy costs create an environment for sustainable job growth in rural America."

Secretary Vilsack made the announcement while touring Metrolina Greenhouses, a family-owned plant and services company in Huntersville, NC, that has received a REAP guaranteed loan and three grants totaling over $1 million since 2007. In 2009, Metrolina received a combined REAP guaranteed loan and grant to construct a wood boiler heating system to supplement and replace the natural gas and fuel it uses at the 120-acre facility. In addition to heating Metrolina's greenhouses, using wood chips in the boiler provides an additional market for local lumber mills and logging operations.

Tennessee small business owner Rick Alexander is using a REAP grant and investing another $325,000 to create the first solar powered business in Maury County. Electricity is the largest expense for the climate controlled storage facility he built as a creative re-use of a former furniture building in the downtown business district. The 260 panel, 60 kW solar photovoltaic system is expected to generate more than 71,000 kWh, enough electricity to meet over half of the energy needs of his business for the next two decades. By also participating in the Tennessee Valley Authority's Generation Partners program through Columbia Power and Water, Alexander earns a premium on each clean kW produced, more than enough to cover the average monthly cost of electricity for his businesses.

In Mount Hope, Wis., located in the Southwest corner of the State, Maurice Nichols was selected to receive a grant to purchase efficient grain dryer for his farm, saving over 42 percent in annual energy usage. Whispering Pines Poultry in Centre, Ala., was selected to receive a grant to replace four propane heaters with renewable biomass wood pellet heaters to improve heating efficiency of the poultry houses. It is anticipated that the change will result in a yearly energy savings of over $3,000 per barn.

Today's announcement includes $412,304 in grant funding to 20 agricultural producers and rural businesses to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems. For example, in Washington, the Port Angles Hardwood, LLC., has been selected to receive a grant to study the feasibility of installing a woody biomass co-generation system. If the project is feasible, all biomass mill residuals are estimated to be consumed, and no biomass will have to be sent to a landfill. In South Londonberry, Vermont Woodchips, Inc. has been selected to receive a grant to help determine feasibility of installing a 4 megawatt combined cycle biomass gasifier power plant.

For a complete listing of Rural Energy for America Program grant recipients announced today, please click here. Note that the funds listed with an asterisk are a combination of loans and grants.

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