Wasting energy is something us city slickers are good at. We fire up massive neon signs, watch our flat screen televisions until 2 am, and pay hundreds to keep our apartments cool when heat island effect sets in. Far from the city lights, we imagine a low-impact, countrified utopia, where everyone’s in bed with the setting sun. But that’s hardly the reality.
Rural areas, especially those home to agricultural businesses, consume a lot of energy too. A program from the United States Department of Agriculture aims to make conservation easier by providing financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses that want to implement energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects.
The USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption. In 2013, the program has $20.8 million available as grants, guaranteed loans, and combined grants and guaranteed loans for the development and construction of renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvement projects, and renewable energy system feasibility studies.
In the past, REAP funds have been used to help livestock farmers install an anaerobic digester, turning manure into electricity that can then be sold back to the utility; or the installation of wind turbines that can help an entire rural business go off-grid.
If you live or do business in a rural area, and are interested in how REAP can help you finance your energy efficiency or renewable energy project, as for an application from any USDA Rural Development Energy Coordinator or access the electronic grant application for the Rural Energy for America Program at http://www.grants.gov.