The power of money
The Rural Energy for America Program helps farmers turn on to renewables
Ralph Young comes from a ranching family in the Big Smoky Valley near Austin, Nev. While he was growing up, the farm had only a generator to use for electricity. His father bought an old hydroelectric plant, and it was their electricity source for about 10 years until the power grid came. With energy costs on the farm rising from 6 cents to 32 cents per kilowatt during peak hours, the Young Brothers Ranch is about to get hydropower again. Specifically, it will be installing a microhydro turbine for the irrigation system.
“The cost of these projects are substantial,” said Young. “With that funding, that really put us over the top.”
The funding was $95,423, in Young’s case, and it came from the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), offered to rural farmers, ranchers and small businesses that want to install renewable energy systems or increase their energy efficiency.
“We’ve got wind, hydro, solar, geothermal and biomass,” said Herb Shedd, a programs director with USDA Rural Development. “A lot of technologies can be used under this program.”
Young’s was one of three local renewable energy projects funded through REAP and highlighted at a recent media event in Washoe Valley at Dry Creek Gardens. Standing before a residential wind turbine, the grantees described how they’ll use their projects. Dry Creek Gardens owner John Strickland and Rich Hamilton of Clean Energy Center described how Dry Creek will be able to pay for most of its power through the wind turbine, to be placed beside Highway 395 at the nursery’s entrance. His REAP award was $6,908. NV Energy’s WindGenerations rebate program will also help finance a portion of the project:
The Overton Power District No. 5 will use their $17,575 grant for an 8-kilowatt solar system to be placed on their parking structure in Mesquite to help them meet state renewable energy goals and serve as a demonstration project to customers.
Bently Biofuels, was awarded a $10,716 Advanced Biofuels Payment, which is another USDA Rural Development Program.
“We have a lot of bases covered today,” said Kevin Kirkeby from Sen. John Ensign’s office. “Florida calls themselves the Sunshine State; really Nevada is. We have geothermal, biomass up the hill—all of these things are coming together.”
The REAP program was approved for mandatory funding of about $100 million by Congress last year, and Bill Hagy, USDA special assistant for alternative energy, said it’s poised to double this year, though an appropriations bill for 2010 funding still has to pass the House and Senate.
“Send the money our way; we will use it,” Sarah Adler, Nevada state director for USDA Rural Development, told Hagy during opening remarks.
Hagy expects the appropriations bill to pass within the next couple of months. For the 2009 season, the application process opened in May and went through July. It may differ this year, so interested rural farmers and small businesses should check with the USDA Rural Development office in Carson City for application openings.