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Iowa REAPs the Benefits: Energy Grants for Renewables, Efficiency

PHOTO: The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) makes grants and loan guarantees for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to implement renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies. Photo credit: Carl Wycoff/Flickr.
PHOTO: The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) makes grants and loan guarantees for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to implement renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies. Photo credit: Carl Wycoff/Flickr.
December 10, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa - The reasons behind Iowa's rise to become one the top states for renewable energy are many, but one component that's played a leading role is the Rural Energy for America Program.

REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to implement renewable-energy and energy-efficient technologies, said Dennis Harding, bio-economy manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

"This can be used for anything from methane digesters to small wind projects, but it also has an energy-efficient component," he said. "When the energy efficiency component became more understood, we had a lot of farmers who were involved with upgrading their drying systems on farms."

Since the implementation of REAP about a decade ago, Iowa has been the nation's biggest beneficiary, with 1,800 awards totaling nearly $150 million in grants and loan guarantees.

Steve Falck, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, credits the local success to aggressive efforts at getting the word out, to the point where other states are asking Iowa staff for advice and training.

"Plus, farmers recognize a good deal when they hear one," he said. "There is one turkey grower down in Washington, Iowa, who's saving up to $25,000 a year on his electricity. In an industry with livestock where margins can be thin, anywhere you can reduce your fixed costs has drawn a lot of interest."

Applications for the next round of funding are now being accepted. Iowa farm producers and rural small businesses that are interested can contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office.

More information is online at farmenergy.org and rurdev.usda.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA