Loans and grants for agricultural producers and rural small businesses have been awarded to those implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in their operations. The funding is provided through USDA Rural Development's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
"Stable energy costs create an environment for job growth in rural America," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. "The Obama Administration is helping agricultural producers and business owners reduce their energy costs and consumption – and by doing so is helping preserve our natural resources, protect the environment and strengthen the bottom line for businesses, ranchers and farm operations."
Collectively, these REAP-funded projects and those announced earlier by USDA are expected to lower energy usage by 2 billion kilowatts and prevent nearly 2 million metric tons of emissions from being released into the environment. This round of grants is the last of the awards sycle for 2011. REAP, authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill, provides loans and grants for farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal dollars are leveraged with other funding sources for the projects.
USDA Rural Development provided through the REAP program a total of $23.2 million for energy efficiency projects, $20.9 million for biodigesters, $20.3 million for solar energy projects, $8.2 million for hydroelectric systems, $7 million for biomass energy projects, $4.28 million for flexible fuel pump projects, $3.9 million for wind energy projects, $1.4 million for geothermal installations in fiscal year 2011.
"In Kansas, $800,000 was invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the state through the REAP program," said USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark. "Through the REAP energy efficiency projects, USDA helps producers and small businesses control costs and improve profitability. Kansans have been able to develop renewable energy opportunities in rural communities with assistance from the REAP program, and I hope this federal support can be continued in the future."
USDA Rural Development is funding more than 280 projects to help reduce energy costs. In all, the department funded more than 1,100 energy efficiency projects in fiscal year 2011, including improvements in aquaculture, poultry lighting and ventilation, irrigation system upgrades, maple syrup production efficiency, small business heating and cooling, rural grocery cooler replacement and others.
The newest Kansas energy efficiency projects funded include four farming operations that received funds to convert their irrigation units to more energy efficient units. They are:
Scott Becker, $16,298, for a Finney County to convert two natural gas irrigation engines to electric irrigation motors with variable frequency drives.
Premier 4 Farms, $33,922, for a Haskell County project to convert four diesel irrigation engines to electric motors with variable frequency drives.
Kolb Farms, $26,408, for a Stevens County project to convert three diesel irrigation engines to electric irrigation motors with variable frequency drive, and
D. Barry Schmitt Rev. Trust, $17,068, for a Barton County project to replace two existing electric irrigation motors with two smaller electric motors with variable frequency drive.
"Converting a natural gas irrigation engine to an electric engine is a very expensive conversion, and the REAP grant helped to make the switch to a more energy-efficient system more economical," stated Scott Becker. "The engineers at Kansas State University estimated that we would have an annual energy savings of approximately 90 percent by switching to an electric irrigation engine."
USDA is providing support for 12 flexible fuel pump projects in eight states, bringing the number of flex-fuel projects funded to 65 in fiscal year 2011, with 266 new pumps being installed in 30 states.
In Kansas, CC of Hays Inc., received a $35,925 grant to install a flexible fuel pump, underground biofuel storage tank and fuel lines at the Golden Ox Truck Stop in Hays.
Funding of each REAP award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant or loan agreement. Grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project's cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewable energy, $250,000 for energy efficiency.
For additional information regarding this and other USDA Rural Development programs visit the Agency's website http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/KS, or call the Agency's state office at 785-271-2700.