USDA Releases Awards for Renewable Energy Projects

Guest Blog | November 10, 2011 | Press Releases

Knoxville, Tenn. (November 10, 2011) – On November 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced cost-share funding for thirty-four solar electricity projects that will be used by Tennessee farms and rural businesses. These projects were funded by the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and will help Tennessee farmers become more energy independent and add a much-needed source of revenue. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy joins with local renewable energy professionals to celebrate the growing number of solar electricity projects funded by REAP in Tennessee.

Wampler’s Farm Sausage received a REAP grant in 2009 and installed a solar electricity system at their Lenoir City facility, using 100 percent American-made components and employing local skilled labor for installation.

“Wampler’s Farm Sausage is the poster child for why REAP works – especially because of job creation,” said Harvey Abouelata, president of ARiES Energy, which is based in Knoxville. “This system generates renewable electricity for Wampler at one-third the cost of conventional retail electricity. This lower cost input makes them more competitive in the decades to come, while creating growth and future jobs in their community. The system would have never been installed if it were not for the USDA REAP cost-share grant.”

Yesterday’s announcement also included more than $3.6 million in cost-share grants nationally, which leverages more than $11 million in additional private investments. Other awards included in the announcement were for wind, geothermal, energy efficiency, and hydroelectric power projects. On October 26, the USDA also announced anaerobic digester projects in eight states, which will cut energy costs while slashing greenhouse gas emissions and controlling animal waste pollution.

REAP is a valuable program for America’s energy security. By spurring investments that increase efficiency or generate homegrown energy, the program reduces our national reliance on fossil energy such as diesel fuel and propane. REAP is also valuable to rural economic development. Since 2003, the USDA has awarded more than 7,750 projects in all 50 states, and has saved or created 14,917 jobs, assisted 9,579 businesses, and reduced an estimated 13 million metric tons of CO2.

Regrettably, REAP is on the chopping block in Congress. Even as REAP continues to create jobs, the 2012 Appropriations Conference Committee (for Agriculture, Commerce and Transportation) will meet this week to decide on possible cuts to this program. This critical program — which serves every American agricultural sector, in every state — must be preserved.

“Given that REAP creates job and moves us towards energy independence in our rural communities, I am hopeful that Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker will work towards restoring full funding for REAP in the 2012 budget and renewing REAP in the next Farm Bill,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the