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REAP Farm Energy Investments Announced as Congress Considers Cuts to Funding

(Nov 9, 2011) Today USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced another round of awards under the Rural Energy for America Program, with a focus on solar, wind, geothermal and small hydropower. The awards reflect the growing and diverse opportunities for American agriculture and rural communities to profit from renewable energy.

Despite the success and popularity of the program, a Congressional “Conference Committee” is now deliberating just how drastically to cut REAP funding for 2012. “REAP is a successful clean energy program, generating jobs and economic development in rural communities while cutting pollution,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Congress can create jobs and grow our economy, by continuing to renew and robustly REAP for 2012 and beyond.”

The greatest number of awards went to solar energy, for both solar electric and solar thermal (heat). For the entire year, REAP funded 478 solar projects in 44 states. Michigan fared the best with 48 awards followed by New York (39), Pennsylvania (36), Tennessee (34) and California (29). Farmers have always harvested the sun for growing food and fiber and now more are embracing solar energy for power and heat.

For the year 2011, REAP funded 55 wind power awards, with Iowa and New York leading with seven each. Wind power has flourished under REAP for both small and utility-scale technologies, but fell off significantly this year, from 164 projects in 2010.

Geothermal projects use the energy of the earth for efficient heating and cooling, saving money while cutting pollution. Fifty-nine awards sparked new project construction across the country. Leading states include Minnesota (13), Iowa (11) and Michigan (7).

Small hydroelectric projects were included in REAP in the 2008 Farm Bill revisions and new awards were made for a number of projects in the West (Oregon, Nevada, Idaho) and the southeast (Georgia and North Carolina).

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is a Farm Bill program that enables farmers and rural small businesses to install diverse renewable energy or energy efficiency technologies to cut costs and increase profits. REAP provides loan guarantees and grants for up to 25% of the project cost, leveraging private sector investment and creating jobs. REAP is up for renewal in the new Farm Bill now being debated by Congress.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) has advocated for REAP from the program’s inception and has helped expand the program to benefit rural communities across the nation. ELPC is working to protect REAP funding and promote job creation and clean energy for rural communities.