*May 5, 2014 – The USDA announced funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for a wide range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. You can see the official notice here.
This funding announcement is the first of two rounds of funding to be announced this year. The available funds total $28.2 million. Later this year, the USDA will release the final REAP rule and announce the mandatory funding from the Farm Bill of $50 million. The ultimate share of this funding between grants and loan guarantees will be determined by public demand.
The USDA application deadlines follow:
|Applications involving grants||July 7, 2014|
|Guaranteed loan only applications||July 31, 2014|
The first step for potential applicants with project plans in hand is to contact the USDA Rural Development state energy coordinator. It is important to work with these staff, who can help you through the application process. It is also important to connect with your energy coordinators early in the process – and well in advance of deadlines — as they become very busy.
Due to changes in the new Farm Bill, there will be no funding for flexible fuel blender pumps or feasibility studies. Due to the late funding notice (after April 1), there will be no funding in 2014 for Energy Audits or Renewable Energy Development Assistance.
Editorial Note: USDA Continues Loan Guarantee Preference
The funding notice includes a number of regrettable and unneeded preferences for loan guarantees over grants that complicate the program, such as longer timelines and preferred treatment of applications. The USDA’s continuing preference for loan guarantees is quite odd given the well-established disinterest from the public in loan guarantees. Loan guarantees primarily help bankers and actually cost money to the project owner while not lowering financing costs. We would prefer the agency to drop this preference and focus on the program mission.
*Adapted from the Environmental Law and Policy Center announcement.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Division, provides a very useful tool for estimating the average annual wind speed 100 feet (30 meters) up for any location in the state. This interactive tool is ideal for anyone considering a small (home or farm scale) wind system, as the value can be input into our small wind financial calculator to find out whether a wind project will be financially rewarding. They call the tool a "Wind Speed Verification Tool".
The tool is available here.
With support from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, Windustry partnered with wind installer experts to develop a Small Wind Installer Training Curriculum designed to prepare technical students for engagement in the growing small wind industry. Working with two of the nation's foremost small wind installers and trainers, Windustry created a cutting edge, state-of-the-art curriculum.
The Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) is a collaborative group comprised of manufacturers, distributors, project developers, dealers, installers, and advocates, whose primary mission is to promote and foster all aspects of the American distributed wind energy industry. Distributed wind, commonly referred to as small and community wind, is the use of typically smaller wind turbines at homes, farms, businesses, and public facilities to off-set all or a portion of on-site energy consumption.
The Bergey Excel-S is a popular small wind turbine.
Home Power magazine publishes an annual Wind Turbine Guide for considering and planning a wind energy electric system for home, farm, or business. The 2011 guide "Is Wind Electricity Right for You?" covers site evaluation, towers, and turbine choices. Wind energy experts Ian Woofenden and Mick Sagrillo review 24 small wind turbines with a detailed table of specifications along with wind installer survey results.
“Wind electricity is an enticing technology, drawing attention to itself with every turn of the blade,” states the Home Power article. “But for the uneducated consumer, wind power can end up being the most disappointing of renewable energy technologies. This is not because it’s a hopeless endeavor to capture the energy in the wind, but because it’s a difficult job. Unfortunately, the technology also seems to attract more backyard ‘inventors’ and hucksters than other renewable technologies.”
Sells, designs, installs, and maintains renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services for New York State residential and commercial customers.
Skystream, Northern Power Systems, and Bergey WindPower small wind turbines
You Save Green, Incorporated
325 East 64th Street #105,
New York, New York 10065
In 2011, with a grant from the USDA, Windustry and the Region Nine Renewable Energy Task Force launched a Small Wind Bulk Buy Program to help rural enterprises take advantage of the state's wind resources and net-metering laws.
The program was supported by a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant, and other funders to support small wind energy, and the consequent economic development in the region. It provided Small Wind 101 training sessions, as well as technical and logistical support, including wind resource evaluation, site selection, economic evaluation, turbine selection, and support with permitting. The program focused on machines ranging in size from 2.4 kW to just under 40kW.
As of May, 2012, the funds from the USDA ran out and the application for renewal was declined. However, the Region Nine Renewable Energy Task Force still supports the program in a limited fashion; and the resources that were developed, in particular the Small Wind Guide and the Small Wind Financial Calculator, continue to be available below.
—Rich Huelskamp, Renewable Energy consultant, The Sun's Warmth
Windustry Program Analyst Dan Turner: "Region Nine has learned a great deal about making this program work efficiently. Those in the region who can take advantage of it will be well served.
It makes small wind turbines more attractive as investments both to offset electric bills and, in some cases, to generate revenue. Industry growth in the area engages a local workforce trained to install and maintain small wind turbines, stimulates supply chain business development, and keeps energy dollars local to maintain and build the rural economy."
Download the Small Wind Guide for a basic overview about small wind electric systems to help you decide if wind energy is right for you.
Download the Small Wind Financial Calculator for Minnesota Net Metering Situations, requires Microsoft Excel or compatible software.