Applications for grants and guaranteed loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects are now being accepted by USDA Rural Development under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Rural small businesses and rural or urban farmers are eligible to apply for funding for energy projects that serve their farm or business operations. Eligible projects include those using wind energy; solar energy; biomass heat, power, or fuels; anaerobic digestion; geothermal energy; and a wide variety of energy efficiency technologies and upgrade types. Review REAP program documents for a full list of eligible technologies.
REAP grants fund up to 25% of the costs of a renewable energy or energy efficiency project, up to a maximum award of $500,000. REAP guaranteed loans can be made for up to 75% of project costs, up to a maximum of $25 million. Both FY14 and FY15 funds are simultaneously being released, adding up to over $100 million and making this the largest single REAP solicitation ever. A special set-aside of $20 million is allocated for small grant requests of $20,000 or less.
REAP grant applications will be considered in two rounds, with deadlines of April 30 and June 30, 2015. Applicants requesting $20,000 or less and wishing to compete for the special small grant set-aside must submit by April 30. REAP loan guarantee applications will be accepted and considered on a continuous basis. Applications are submitted to the applicant’s USDA Rural Development state office; grant-only applications may alternately be submitted through Grants.gov.
The new final rule for REAP under the 2014 Farm Bill, published by USDA in December, outlines a number of changes to the program. Among other changes, application requirements have been streamlined for smaller requests, the second meter requirement for farmstead projects has been relaxed, scoring criteria have been modified, and eligibility for retail fuel pumps and feasibility study-only projects has been removed. The FarmEnergy.org website of the Environmental Law & Policy Center has a more detailed summary of these changes.
Early stage assistance in initial strategy and resource identification for potential REAP projects is available from Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs staff.