USDA Offers Renewable Energy Feasibility Studies for Rural Businesses

September 22, 2010

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on September 7 the availability of grants of up to $50,000 for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to conduct feasibility studies for installing renewable energy systems. The proposed systems can produce heat, electricity, or fuel. They must produce energy from renewable energy sources, including wind energy, solar energy, biomass energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, or hydrogen-based sources. They must be also located in a rural area and owned by the applicant. Under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the USDA is making $3 million available for the grants, which is sufficient to support at least 60 grants. Applications are due October 5.

The USDA also announced on September 9 that it is awarding $1.9 million to Lincolnway Energy, LLC of Nevada, Iowa. The award will help the company modify a coal-fired boiler at its ethanol biorefinery to burn wood and other biomass. The award was made under the USDA's Repowering Assistance Program, which makes payments to eligible biorefineries to encourage the use of renewable biomass as a replacement fuel source for fossil fuels. Authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, the program is only available to biorefineries that were in existence when the bill was enacted on June 18, 2008. Lincolnway Energy started making ethanol in 2006 and produces up to 60 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol per year at its facility.