2014 Rural Energy for America Grants
Farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses can apply now for grants and loan guarantees for clean energy projects under the Rural Energy for America Program — or REAP. The Rural Energy for America was renewed in the 2014 Farm Bill and supports a wide range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, biogas, biomass, small hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric technologies. In Nebraska, the overwhelming majority of previous Rural Energy for America funding has financed upgrades to irrigation systems, Typical estimated savings range from 50 to 80 percent.
The USDA accepts applications year round and people can apply now use existing application forms. Grants cover up to 25% of project costs. The loan guarantees facilitate lending by providing a guarantee of a portion of the principal to the lender. Background information and frequently asked questions on the Rural Energy for American program can be found here.
A notice of funding availability is expected in early April, with an application deadline 60 days later. This notice would be for funds from the 2014 appropriation plus funds carried over from previous years, about $28 million. When the final program rule is announced, possibly in June or July, a second funding announcement will be issued for the 2014 mandatory funding of $50 million from the new Farm Bill. Applications submitted, but not funded in the first round, will be considered in the second round.
There will be some changes in projects eligible for funding this year. Due to changes in the new Farm Bill, there will be no funding for ethanol blender pumps or feasibility studies. As the statutory deadline has passed, there will be no funding for Energy Audit or Renewable Energy Development Assistance projects. The next opportunity to apply for those is January 2015.
How to Increase Your Application Chances
Potential applicants should remember that the USDA awards these funds on a competitive basis, both within a state and nationally. Applicants improve their chances with careful planning to maximize the score on their application. Applications are scored on a number of criteria where careful planning and self-scoring can increase chances of success.
Farmenergy.org provides tools and tips to help application preparation and self-evaluation application scores. Application templates are available at the Nebraska USDA website. These templates can help dealers and distributors prepare multiple applications. Information on eligibility, technology and financial particulars can also be found at the Nebraska USDA website.
Applicants should also be sure to check in early with the state staff of USDA rural development. They can answer questions, provide useful advice and may need to visit the project during the application process. In Nebraska, contact:
Debra Yocum, USDA Rural Development
100 Centennial Mall North
Room 152, Federal Building
Lincoln, NE 68508