Ag department offers $22 million for rural renewables

WASHINGTON, DC, March 28, 2005 (ENS): Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced the availability of $22.8 million to support investments in renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements by agricultural producers and rural small businesses.

Johanns said, "Renewable energy is an exciting growth frontier for American agriculture." He said renewables strengthen national security and the rural economy.

The funds announced today will be available to support technologies that include biomass, geothermal, hydrogen, solar, and wind energy, as well as energy efficiency improvements.

Section 9006 of the 2002 Farm Bill established the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements loan and grant program to encourage agricultural producers and small rural businesses to create renewable and energy efficient systems. To date, the Bush administration has invested through this program nearly $45 million in 32 states.

The $22.8 million announced today will be made available in two stages. One-half, $11.4 million, is available immediately for competitive grants. Renewable energy grant applications must be for a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $500,000.

Energy efficiency grant applications may range from $2,500 to $250,000. The grant request may not exceed 25 percent of the eligible project cost.

Applications must be submitted to the appropriate Rural Development State Office postmarked no later than June 13, 2005. Detailed information about application and program requirements will be included in today's issue of the Federal Register.

The remaining $11.4 million announced today will be set aside through August 31, 2005 for renewable energy and energy efficiency guaranteed loans. Final details on how to apply for these funds will be published in the Federal Register later this year.