ATKINSON, Ill. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants for more than 900 agricultural producers and rural small businesses across the country to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in their operations.

The grants are being provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a 2008 Farm Bill initiative. REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for small businesses. In all, USDA announced more than $11.6 million in energy grants.

The REAP program is helping a number of agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption. For example, Simpsons Brothers Greenhouses LLC in Ovid, Mich., was selected to receive an $18,000 grant to make energy-efficiency improvements to its greenhouse operations, including installing greenhouse energy curtains that are designed to reduce energy consumption. These improvements are expected to reduce the company’s energy purchases by 42 percent and save more than $12,000 in annual energy expenses.

A family farm in Scales Mound, Ill., will use an $18,439 grant to install photovoltaic panels that will generate solar electricity for a dairy barn. The farm operates 234 certified organic acres in the rolling hills of northwestern Illinois to raise corn, oats, hay, and 45 milking cows. The solar system will power the lighting in the barn during milking, the vacuum pump, the milk cooler, and the fans. The system will offset about 49 percent of the farm’s annual energy consumption.

Kraft Fertilizer Inc. in Princeville, Ill., will use its $13,250 grant to install a geothermal system in a new warehouse. The new building is replacing a similarly sized warehouse that is currently heated by a propane furnace. The geothermal system will circulate a water-based solution through a buried loop system to take advantage of the constant 55°F ground temperature. The new system will use only about 9 percent of the Btu used by the current system.

Funding of each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. Grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project’s cost.

Publication date: 09/12/2011