Notably, the 2014 Farm Bill removed authority for the USDA to fund REAP feasibility studies with REAP grants.
The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities, use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption, and participate in energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.
Renewable energy projects for the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program include wind, solar, biomass and geothermal, and hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar, or geothermal energy sources. These grants are limited to 25% of a proposed project's cost, and a loan guarantee may not exceed $25 million. The combined amount of a grant and loan guarantee must be at least $5,000 (with the grant portion at least $1,500) and may not exceed 75% of the project’s cost. In general, a minimum of 20% of the funds available for these incentives will be dedicated to grants of $20,000 or less. For more information on grant, loan guarantees, loan financing, and opportunities for combinations thereof, visit the USDA website.
In 2014, $12.3 million in grants and $56.4 million in loans was awarded. For a complete list of 2014 projects, click here.
Grants and loans are generally available to state government entities, local governments, tribal governments, land-grant colleges and universities**, rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and other entities, as determined by the USDA. To be eligible for REAP grants and loans, an applicant must have a satisfactory revenue stream and be in control the budget, operations, and maintenance of a project for the entire duration of the loan or grant. Rural small businesses must be located in rural areas, but agricultural producers may be located in non-rural areas.
Eligible project costs include purchasing energy efficiency improvements or a renewable energy system, energy audits or assessments, permitting and licensing fees, and business plans and retrofitting. For new construction the replacement of older equipment with more efficient equipment may be eligible as a project cost only when a new facility is planned to be more efficient and similarly sized than the older facility. Working capital and land acquisition are only eligible for loan guarantees.
For more information regarding applicant and project eligibility for loans and grants, visit the USDA REAP eligibility webpage, read the eligibility requirements in the most recent Solicitation of Applications for REAP funding in the Federal Registry, and/or contact your regional rural energy coordinator.
Regional rural energy coordinators provide loan and grant applications upon request.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (H.R. 2419), enacted by Congress in May 2008, converted the federal Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program,* into the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Similar to its predecessor, the REAP promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy for agricultural producers and rural small businesses through the use of (1) grants and loan guarantees for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems, and (2) grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. Congress has allocated funding for the new program in the following amounts: $55 million for FY 2009, $60 million for FY 2010, $70 million for FY 2011, and $70 million for FY 2012. REAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition to these mandatory funding levels, up to $25 million in discretionary funding may be issued each year. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) extended discretionary funding for FY 2013. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the USDA to offer these programs and removed the mandate to offer grants for feasibility studies.
* The Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program was created by the USDA pursuant to Section 9006 of the 2002 federal Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Funding in the amount of $23 million per year was appropriated for each fiscal year from FY 2003-2007. In March 2008, the USDA announced that it would accept $220.9 million in applications for grants, loan guarantees, and loan/grant combination packages under the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program. The application deadline was June 16, 2008.
**Land grant colleges and universities are referred to above as "schools" and "institutions". It is important to note that K-12 schools are not eligible for this grant.