Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Learn about the USDA's REAP and RUS Electric Loan programs!

I am excited to tell you that the USDA offers two primary programs for renewable energy projects – REAP and the RUS Electric Loan Program.  The former is for smaller scale endeavors such as a single wind turbine and the latter is for large scale projects like a wind farm.  Both of these programs are available for use in all of the Great Lake states.  REAP stands for the Rural Energy for America Program and your local state office will accept applications all-year-round.  At this time funding is only announced once per year.  REAP applications may consist of a grant request for up to 25% of total project costs, a loan guarantee, or a combination of the two.  The RUS Electric Loan Program offers much larger loans, $10MM and up, with a low interest rate tied to the Treasury rate.  Small, rural businesses and agricultural producers qualify to use REAP while any entity that provides electric service to rural consumers is eligible to apply for the Electric Loan Program.  Applications for that program are accepted by the national, Rural Development office in Washington, DC.

I very much enjoy being a part of REAP in the Columbus, Ohio state office.  Here in Ohio we have seen many small businesses and agricultural producers benefit from REAP.  In one case we were able to fund a 100kW wind turbine on a dairy farm.  The applicant was able to secure a REAP grant in the amount of $137,500 covering 25% of his total project costs.  The dairy farm had an annual electric usage of 128,228 kWh.  The new wind turbine now produces over 134,000 kWh annually.  The grantee has successfully replaced all of their electric power with a renewable energy source.  These projects are exciting because they save the grantee money over decades of use and they help the environment.

Currently Ohio has not completed a RUS Electric Loan program project; though a large scale solar undertaking is in the works.  In other states, large wind projects have been quite fruitful.  As an example, in the state of North Dakota, an electric cooperative used a RUS Electric Loan in the amount of $204MM to install 115.5MW of wind power.  These large scale renewable energy ventures help to greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. 

I hope to see both of these USDA programs used for wind and other renewable energy projects in the Great Lakes region.  If you would like any more information on these programs, please contact me!

Christie Hooks, USDA
(614) 255-2397

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