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Vilsack announces funding for rural clean energy initiatives

Jake Wyman/The Image Bank USDA issues grants for renewable energy projects
RURAL RENEWABLE FOCUS: USDA is cutting checks for renewable energy projects across the country. And the agency is taking applications for an additional $300 million in added funding later in 2023.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA would invest $285 million for renewable energy programs across rural America.

Rural communities across the country are about to get a renewable energy boost. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has allocated $285 million in federal funding to support renewable energy initiatives in rural communities. Those projects are intended to improve critical infrastructure, lower costs, combat climate change and expand access to clean energy.

“People in rural America are on the front lines of climate change, and our communities deserve investments that will strengthen our country’s resilience,” Vilsack says. “President Biden has created a roadmap for how we can tackle the climate crisis and expand access to renewable energy infrastructure, all while creating good-paying jobs and saving people money on their energy costs.”

The $285 million in renewable energy funding was allocated to 844 projects across 46 states through the administration’s Rural Energy for America Program. That program assists farmers, producers and entrepreneurs with installing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements.

“It’s a program that benefits farmers and it’s a program that benefits rural communities,” Vilsack says.

He noted that the amount awarded each project varies greatly. Marzen Family Farms in Stacyville, Iowa has been awarded an $16,000 grant to install an oxygen monitoring system for five catfish producing ponds. This is expected to reduce their energy consumption by 35%.

Meadow Ridge Farms, LLC in Pennsylvania is getting $98,5000 to install a 187-kilowat ground-mount solar energy system for its poultry operation. That is expected to save them $17,000 per year while also saving enough energy to power five homes and fuel one vehicle for an entire year.

On the other end of the spectrum the Virginia Alliance Solar Program in Manson, NC will receive a $25 million loan guarantee to purchase and install a 48.5-megawatt solar system. When completed it will help provide electricity to more than 8,000 homes.

More funding available

Vilsack also announced that USDA is making an additional $300 available under the Rural Energy for America program to expand renewable energy and support energy efficiency.

Around $250 million of that funding will come from the Inflation Reduction Act passed earlier this year. That bill authorized more than $2 billion for the Rural Energy for America Program. USDA will be accepting grant application through March 31.

Applications for an energy audit and development assistance will be accepted until Jan. 31. The Department will also consider applications for loan guarantees on a rolling basis throughout the year.

“We’re encouraging everyone to take full advantage of this historic opportunity to continue to expand significantly rural renewable energy in rural America,” Vilsack says.

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