The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program is receiving a $1 billion boost from the Inflation Reduction Act to fund projects improving the renewable energy infrastructure across farm country.

The sum is a big increase from the typical REAP funding allocation; the program distributed just shy of $285 million in grants and loans in the 2022 fiscal year. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Friday USDA plans to award money quarterly through Sept. 30, 2024, and will start allocating the money April 1. The department plans to roll out a new slate of funded projects every quarter.

“Over the course of the next three months, we'll receive applications (and) those applications will result in real projects,” he said. “Then the next quarter, we'll have more applications – the quarter after that, more applications.

“We’ve already seen 2,200 projects funded during this administration, so I have every expectation this is going to continue,” he added. “The country understands the importance of it, and certainly rural America understands the importance of it.”

Solar energy projects have dominated REAP funding for years, but a USDA release says the department is “particularly interested” in new projects “that will help rural communities recover economically through more and better market opportunities and improved infrastructure, reduce climate pollution and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change, conserve and protect farmland, and invest in underserved communities.”

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USDA also plans to allocate about 20% of the available funds in the first two quarters of the year for grant requests of $20,000 or less, which could also include the grant portion of a combined grant and guaranteed loan program.

REAP investments must be matched by other funds; the maximum federal share is 50% of a project’s costs. That level of support is available for energy efficiency and zero-emissions renewable energy projects as well as efforts “in a designated energy community and/or submitted by an eligible tribal entity.” All other projects can receive grants of up to 25%.

Funding is capped at $1 million grants for renewable energy systems and $500,000 for energy-efficiency projects.

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