Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced the opening of the new application cycle for our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). In addition to the announcement, RBS conducted a national REAP stakeholder forum which discussed program changes and provided examples of successful projects from previous years.
For example, Ideal Dairy restaurant of Richfield, Utah used a REAP grant to leverage a loan from Zions Bank and install an array of solar panels on the roof of its retail location. The addition has saved an average of $400 a month in electricity expenditures for owners Kristi and Gary Sorenson. A larger scale solar project in Guayanila, Puerto Rico allowed a major employer – Master Paints and Chemicals Corporation – to completely offset its $180,000 annual energy expenses and give it independence from fossil fuel-based energy.
Solar panels are just one example of what can be done with REAP. The 2014 Farm Bill provided funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), for energy efficiency improvements for agricultural producers and rural small businesses. These can include new, high efficiency heating and cooling equipment, efficient windows and insulation, and even wind turbine or hydroelectric projects.
I’ve just returned from speaking with the Independent Community Bankers of America at their annual convention. We discussed options for leveraging REAP and other Rural Business programs – and it’s through partnerships with our rural bankers that we’re able to leverage Federal funding and improve access to capital in our rural communities. That amplifies the effect and reach of our Rural Energy for America Program guarantees and grants.
I encourage folks interested in the program to check out our Rural Energy for America Program information sheet to learn more. We’re also going to be holding informational webinars – we’re calling them ‘REAP Round-ups’. These webinars will hold valuable information for folks considering applying for funding, as well as allow participants to ask questions. We held our first REAP Round-up to discuss energy efficiency improvements on February 18. For those who didn’t attend, we recorded it for you to go back and watch at your convenience. We have two more coming, with a discussion on renewable energy systems on March 11, and a session on energy project financing with loan guarantees on April 2. We’ll record those as well just in case you miss them – and you’ll be able to find the recorded versions at the same link.
USDA Rural Development is leading the way in providing financial support for rural small business owners who are improving their energy efficiency and developing renewable energy resources.