WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects nationwide. The funding is provided through the agency’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP was created by the 2008 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program’s investments — largely in solar but including at least some geothermal heat pump (GHP) contributions — are meant to reduce America’s energy consumption and cut carbon pollution while saving agribusinesses nearly $45 billion on their energy bills.

Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP loan guarantees and grants to make energy-efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen, and geothermal. Of the 540 projects selected in this round of REAP funding, 240 were for solar technologies, and only 10 involved GHPs in eight states. Out of $12.3 million provided in project grants, geothermal projects totaled $273,391, or only 2.2 percent of grant money available from the REAP program. The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) supports the continuation of the REAP Program. “To better take advantage of the USDA renewable and energy-efficiency funds, the agricultural community needs more information about how GHPs can help lower costs for not only heating and cooling, but for process work as well,” said Doug Dougherty, president, GEO. “We must make a better effort at the local and regional levels with state agricultural extension services to get more information out about the REAP program, and the good word about GHPs.”

Publication date: 11/17/2014

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