E&E: Rural energy efforts run low on fuel as farm bill expires

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Chuck Bushman Farm flipped the switch earlier this year on 360 solar panels spread across its chicken barn in Castalia, Iowa. (more…)

Application Period Now Open for Biomass Crop Assistance Program Project Areas

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is now accepting applications for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Project Areas. Proposals will be accepted until close of business, April 23, 2012.

“BCAP is an important and unique program that develops new biomass energy crops that can boost farmer income while providing a new energy source for the nation. It has potential across the country,” said Steve Falck, Senior Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). (more…)

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Renewable Energy Feasibility Awards

Monday, March 7th, 2011

(March, 2011) USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced grants were awarded to 68 American farmers and rural small businesses to conduct renewable energy feasibility studies under REAP – the Rural Energy for America Program.

“The Obama Administration is committed to helping our nation become more energy independent by helping rural businesses build renewable energy systems,” said Secretary Vilsack. The grants provide assistance for rural small businesses and agricultural producers to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy system installations.

Feasibility studies help farmers and rural small businesses identify ways to cut energy costs and get new clean energy projects in the pipeline. The REAP Feasibility Studies Program pays up to 25% of the costs of the study.

The 68 feasibility study grants totaled $1.6 million and fund studies in 27 states and territories. A number of larger-scale geothermal power projects in the American West were funded, including one for 500 kw and one for 10 MW. Direct geothermal electric technologies have long planning times, where this support makes a big difference. Ohio had the largest number of awards – 10 – for digesters, solar and wind.

Table 1: Breakdown, by state, of the number of projects and the total amount of funding for those projects

State

Grant Totals

Number

Alaska $50,000 1
California $32,750 2
Colorado $1,500 1
Georgia $21,875 1
Hawaii $10,000 1
Idaho $73,624 4
Indiana $30,257 3
Iowa $110,936 5
Kentucky $20,000 1
Michigan $78,246 6
Minnesota $50,000 1
Missouri $112,875 4
Montana $45,250 1
Nebraska $78,502 3
New Jersey $97,500 2
New Mexico $8,978 1
New York $49,500 2
North Carolina $49,625 1
Ohio $128,750 10
Oklahoma $50,000 1
Oregon $164,787 6
South Carolina $10,000 1
Tennessee $25,000 1
Texas $163,203 4
Utah $40,000 1
Washington $69,650 2
Western Pacific $21,931 1
Wisconsin $21,500 1

Click on charts to zoom.

Breakdown of 2010 REAP Feasibility Study Funding, by Technology

Breakdown of 2010 REAP Feasibility Study Funding, by Technology

Number of 2010 REAP Feasibility Study Awards, by Technology

Number of 2010 REAP Feasibility Study Awards, by Technology

USDA Issues New Biorefinery and Repowering Assistance Rules

Monday, February 28th, 2011

(Feb 28, 2011) USDA recently issued interim final rules for two Energy Title programs in the 2008 Farm Bill: Repowering Assistance Payments to Eligible Biorefineries, and the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program.

USDA is accepting comments on the rules through April 12, 2011. However, by issuing the rules as “interim final rules” rather than “proposed rules,” the Department can implement the regulations now, and then adjust them as necessary after receiving comments.

Repowering Assistance for Eligible Biorefineries

This program implements Section 9004 of the 2008 Farm Bill, Repowering Assistance. Its purpose is to help to “green” ethanol plants with funding for existing facilities to convert their on-site power plants from fossil fuel to renewable biomass. The carbon savings can be significant, with larger plants reducing greenhouse gases by 100,000 tons or more annually. The 2008 Farm Bill committed $35 million in funding for Repowering Assistance.

ELPC commented extensively on USDA’s first proposal for Repowering Assistance, and we are pleased that the Department has agreed in whole or in part with most of our recommendations. For example, the rule largely drops the “rural restriction” requirement that plants had to be located in rural areas.

However, we remain concerned that the program does not sufficiently reward the greatest carbon reductions in funding proposals, so we will comment on the interim final rule as well.

The Interim final Rule is available here, and comments are due April 12, 2011. Please feel free to contact Andy Olsen at ELPC if you have any questions about the Repowering Assistance Program.

Advanced Biofuel Payment Program

This program implements Section 9005 of the 2008 Farm Bill, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. Its purpose is to encourage production of lower-carbon biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. Corn starch ethanol is not eligible. It offers production payments for biofuels based on several factors, and we expect that most of this funding will be used for soy biodiesel in the first several years of the new Farm Bill, along with some funding for other oilseed crops. The 2008 Farm Bill included $300 million in mandatory funding for this program.

Key points in the Interim Final Rule include:

  • Two-tier payments for both total annual production and yearly increases, with the incentive first prioritizing total production and then, by 2013, equally dividing the incentive payments between total and incremental production.
  • Discouraging use of forest biomass in several ways, notably by limiting payments for fuels produced from forest biomass to only 5 percent of total annual funding.
  • Encouraging carbon savings with a “BTU bonus” for biofuels that meet U.S. EPA renewable fuels standard (RFS) requirements.

 The Interim final Rule is available here, and comments are due April 12, 2011.

New Rules for Biomass Crop Assistance Program

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

On October 27, 2010, USDA/FSA published the final rule implementing the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in the Federal Register.  The rule is effective immediately and summarized, below. You can download the final BCAP rule here.

ELPC Reaction to Final BCAP Rule

ELPC welcomes publication of a BCAP rule that will finally and fully implement the entire BCAP program.  However, ELPC is disappointed that the final rule fails to ensure the majority of program resources will support sustainable perennial energy crop production.  No funding limitations are placed on the collection of existing biomass materials and the final rule does not require a competitive review process to give priority consideration to the most environmentally and economically sound BCAP projects. (more…)

USDA Releases Long-Awaited Biomass Crop Proposal

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

(February 8) On February 8, 2010, USDA issued its proposed rule to implement the 2008 Farm Bill’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).  In the same proposal USDA also terminated an interim funding program under BCAP which has cost the government far more than expected.

USDA is accepting public comments on its BCAP proposal through April 9, 2010. Here is a copy of the proposal (opens in new window); otherwise, read on for more information on the proposal. (more…)