Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces the Rural Partners Network to Empower Rural Communities to Access Federal Resources

With today’s launch of the Rural Partners Network, the Department of Energy is committed to ensuring federal resources that can benefit rural America actually reach rural America.

This new collaboration between federal agencies and rural communities will help create jobs, build infrastructure, and make the government work better for rural America.

Learn more here:

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces the Rural Partners Network to Empower Rural Communities to Access Federal Resources

FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Empowers the Department of Energy to Deliver for Rural America

Norfolk’s 8.5-megawatt solar farm nearing completion

By Dillon Adams, Siouxland Proud

The program is made possible through a 30-year partnership between Norfolk’s energy supplier, Nebraska Public Power District, and Sol Customer Solutions. [Mayor Josh] Moenning said there’s much more demand for solar energy these days, specifically from corporations.

“We think this is very forward-looking. A lot of businesses now are looking only for renewable sources, clean sources of energy and we’ll be able to accommodate them to a certain extent with this project and we’re hopeful we can develop more in the future,” said Moenning. Read more here.

The site will be planted with a pollinator crop. These are environmentally friendly and require minimal maintenance. Source: City of Norfolk.Gov

NEW REPORT ON ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUSES

New Report Details Benefits of Electric School Buses, American Public Power Association

With advances in electric bus technology, a growing understanding of the benefits of electrification, and an influx of federal money through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), electric school buses are becoming an increasingly viable option for school districts, according to a new report from the United States Public Interest Research Group, Environment America, and Frontier Group: Electric School Buses and the Grid

Read the Executive Summary and download the report here.

NDED RECOGNIZES FT. CALHOUN’S LEADERSHIP

Ft. Calhoun Honored for Leading Partnerships Geared Toward Energy, Recreational Growth, Nebraska Department of Economic Development News Release

The city of Ft. Calhoun (Pop. 908), home to a groundbreaking solar partnership with Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), has earned ongoing recognition from the State of Nebraska for recent economic growth. The Department of Economic Development (DED) this week announced the City’s recertification in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. 

Click here for more information about the LCC Program.

PJM NEWS

Coal plant owners seek to shut 3.2 GW in PJM in face of economic, regulatory and market pressures, Utility Dive

PJM is a regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of
wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Graphic: PJM Interconnection queue as of December 31, 2021.

Coal-fired power plants in PJM are retiring, as they are in other parts of the U.S., in the face of less expensive renewable energy, tougher environmental rules and higher operating costs, according to ESAI Power and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a nonprofit that supports moving away from fossil fuels.

FEATURED NATIONAL LIBRARY

USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL)
The National Agricultural Library is one of five national libraries of the United States and houses one of the world’s largest collections devoted to agriculture and its related sciences.

Recent NAL resources on renewable energy include:

Government Spending Bill Is Signed into Law: What You Need to Know

By Alexandra Adams, Natural Resources Defense Council

[Last] Tuesday, President Biden signed into law a $1.5 trillion bill, referred to as an “omnibus” spending bill, that funds the government through September and also provides billions in assistance for Ukraine. The omnibus funding bill passed the Senate in a 68-to-31 vote last week, a day after it received strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Here’s why this is so important: Read more here.

Referenced in the article: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden mid-November, 2021.

Department of Energy Program Offices
The following are just several of DOE’s Program Offices. Find links to information about all DOE program offices and funding opportunities at the above link. The descriptions, below, are the Department of Energy’s. 

OFFICE OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.
Funding Opportunities

LOAN PROGRAMS OFFICE
The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs enable DOE to work with private companies and lenders to mitigate the financing risks associated with clean energy projects, and thereby encourage their development on a broader and much-needed scale.

The Loan Programs consist of three separate programs managed by two offices, the Loan Guarantee Program Office (LGP) and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program Office. LPO originates, guarantees, and monitors loans to support clean energy projects through these programs.

OFFICE OF SCIENCE
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science is the lead federal agency supporting fundamental scientific research for energy and the Nation’s largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences. The Office of Science portfolio has two principal thrusts: direct support of scientific research and direct support of the development, construction, and operation of unique, open-access scientific user facilities. Scroll down to view Funding News.

OFFICE OF INDIAN ENERGY POLICY AND PROGRAMS
The Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs is authorized to fund and implement a variety of programmatic activities that assist American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native villages with energy development, capacity building, energy cost reduction, and electrification of Indian lands and homes.
Funding Opportunities

OFFICE OF ELECTRICITY
The Office of Electricity (OE) provides national leadership to ensure that the Nation’s energy delivery system is secure, resilient and reliable. OE works to develop new technologies to improve the infrastructure that brings electricity into our homes, offices, and factories, and the federal and state electricity policies and programs that shape electricity system planning and market operations.
Priority: Building a Better Grid Initiative

COMPREHENSIVE GRID LEGISLATION: THE CHARGE ACT

Senator Markey Introduces Sweeping Legislation To Create 21st Century Electric Grid,
News Release, Office of Senator Edward J. Markey

 The CHARGE Act would establish critical electricity infrastructure needed
to improve reliability, lower costs for ratepayers, spur clean energy innovation

Washington (March 17, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and co-chair of the Senate Climate Task Force, today introduced the Connecting Hard-to-reach Areas with Renewably Generated Energy (CHARGE) Act, comprehensive legislation that would lay the groundwork for America’s clean energy revolution. The legislation positions the United States to proactively plan and build a reliable and resilient energy grid across broad regions of the country, to bridge the gap between the supply of renewable energy and the cities and towns that need energy access. 

The CHARGE Act is endorsed by Public Citizen, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), New Consensus, Grid Strategies, and Digital Climate Action. A copy of the legislation can be found HERE and a one-page summary HERE

DOE NEWS RELEASE

DOE Releases Action Plan For Photovoltaic Systems End-Of-Life Management, March 18, 2022

The five-year-strategy aims to halve the cost of recycling and reduce the
environmental impact of solar energy modules at end-of-life 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released an action plan to enable the safe and responsible handling of photovoltaic (PV) end-of-life (EOL) materials. The activities outlined in the plan will reduce the environmental impact of solar energy while supporting the Biden Administration’s goal to decarbonize the electricity grid by 2035.  

As solar deployment rapidly increases, more PV components will reach the end of their useful life and enter the waste stream. Although 95% of a PV module is recyclable, the current economics of EOL handling are unfavorable to recycling. The cost to recycle PV modules is significantly higher than the landfill fee. Establishing safe, responsible, and economic EOL practices will support greater deployment of solar energy.

Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office here.
Funding Opportunities

USDA NEWS RELEASE

Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is soliciting applications for grants that will advance equity in rural America by creating new opportunities in distressed communities. The Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grant Program offers funding to create and augment high-wage jobs, accelerate the formation of new businesses, support industry clusters, and maximize the use of local productive assets in eligible low-income rural areas. RISE grant funds can be used to:

  • Build or support a business incubator facility
  • Provide worker training to support new job creation
  • Train the existing workforce to build skills for higher-paying jobs
  • Develop a base of skilled workers and improve their opportunities to obtain high-wage jobs in new or existing local industries.

Apply by April 19, 2022. 

Additional USDA Resources

Featured USDA Energy Programs

From The White House TodayA Proclamation on National Agriculture Day, 2022
On National Agriculture Day, we recognize the invaluable contributions of American farmers, farmworkers, ranchers, fishers, foresters, and other agricultural workers, who have practiced their craft for generations and touch the lives of Americans every day. Their tireless efforts growing crops, raising livestock, and distributing food, fuel, and fiber sustain America and the entire world.  They put meals on our plates, clothes on our backs, and roofs over our heads.  Along the way, America’s agricultural workers serve as stewards of the land; ensure the safety and health of animals, plants, and people; and strengthen our rural communities with economic opportunities.

Neighbors express excitement, frustration over Cass County solar farm proposal

By Abbie Petersen KETV

CASS COUNTY, Neb. — As gas prices climb, there’s a new look toward solar energy in rural Nebraska. The zoning administrator for Cass County says the proposal for the solar farm near Murray would be one of the largest in the state. But some neighbors say they think the solar farm is a bad investment. Zoning administrator Mike Jensen says it’s a big decision. Continue reading or watch the video here.

FROM PV MAGAZINE & NDA

Solar+food in ethanol fields could fully power the United States
Converting the nation’s 40 million acres of ethanol corn farms into solar-plus-food facilities would generate 1.5 times our nation’s electricity needs, while also powering a 100% electrified passenger vehicle fleet.

Nebraska Agriculture Fact Card, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, February 2022

  • In 2021, Nebraska ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 25 operating plants having production capacity of almost 2.6 billion gallons. Approximately 31% of Nebraska’s 2021 corn crop was utilized in ethanol production.
  • Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize 44.8 million acres, 92% of the state’s total land area.
  • There are 22 million acres of rangeland and pastureland in Nebraska, half of which are in the Sandhills.

USDA RESOURCE

Farming and Farm Income, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Most farmers receive off-farm income, but small-scale operators depend on it.
Median total household income among all farm households ($80,060) exceeded the median total household income for all U.S. households ($67,521) in 2020. Median household income and income from farming increase with farm size and most households earn some income from off-farm employment. About 89 percent of U.S. farms are small, with gross cash farm income less than $350,000; the households operating these farms typically rely on off-farm sources for most of their household income. In contrast, the median household operating large-scale farms earned $402,780 in 2020, and most of that came from farming.

LAND LEASE RESOURCE FOR FARMERS & RANCHERS 

Considerations for Leasing Land for Solar Development, by F. John Hay, Extension Educator for Bioenergy, University of Nebraska Lincoln

Links to More Extension Resources

USDA Launches Pilot Program to Deploy Renewable Energy Infrastructure to People in Rural Towns

USDA News Release

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 19, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is making up to $10 million available to help people living in rural towns develop community renewable energy projects that will help them cut their energy costs and contribute to the nationwide effort to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. These funds will be targeted to help people who live in communities that have been historically underinvested and disinvested.

USDA is making the funds available through the new Rural Energy Pilot Program to help the people of rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before. Through this program, USDA is supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making environmental justice a part of every agency’s mission to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Highlights Key Work in 2021 to Combat Climate Change, USDA News Release, January 18, 2022

“Climate change threatens our food security, safety, and the environment we all depend on, but USDA is taking action to respond,” said Vilsack. “Working closely alongside our partners and those we serve, we are conserving precious natural resources, supporting climate smart forestry and agriculture, helping agricultural producers make their operations more climate friendly and resilient to climate change, and protecting communities from wildfire.”

USDA Resource: Climate Solutions

Kate Bolz Begins Term as State Director USDA RD Nebraska

USDA News Release

LINCOLN, Neb.– State Director Kate Bolz took her oath of office here Monday, beginning her appointment by the Biden-Harris Administration to oversee the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for Nebraska. The oath was administered virtually to twelve new officials across the United States from Washington D.C. due to COVID protocols.

In her new role, Bolz will oversee the administration of Rural Development programs in the state including grants and loans to individuals, families, businesses, organizations, and municipalities in rural areas in need of single-family housing, multi-family housing, repair, renewable energy, water and environmental programs, broadband extension, and telecommunications/ infrastructure improvements. Continue reading here.

Recent USDA News Releases & Select Resources

Solar power projects see the light on former Appalachian coal land

By Carey L. Biron, Thomsen Reuters Foundation News

The U.S. government formally began looking at putting renewable energy installations
on disturbed land – including mines, but also contaminated sites and landfills – in 2008. Since then, the RE-Powering America’s Land program has mapped over 100,000 potential sites covering more than 44 million acres.

DICKENSON COUNTY, Virginia – Looking west from Hazel Mountain, Brad Kreps can see forested hills stretching to the Tennessee border and beyond, but it is the flat, denuded area in front of him he finds exciting.

Surface coal mining ended on this site several years ago. But with a clean-up underway, it is now being prepared for a new chapter in the region’s longstanding role as a major energy producer – this time from a renewable source: the sun.

While using former mining land to generate solar energy has long been discussed, this and five related sites are among the first projects to move forward in the coalfields of the central Appalachian Mountains, as well as nationally. Continue reading here.

Virginia’s Clean Energy Legislation

Previously Posted: Interior Investing Over $260 Million to Help Create Jobs and Revitalize Land in Coal Communities, Department of the Interior News Release

DESERT RENEWABLE ENERGY CONSERVATION PLAN


The Biden Administration seeks to conserve 30% of U.S. land by 2030. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is one way to that goal.

See: Road to 30, Center for Western Priorities. Scroll down to learn about this plan and more Ways to Get to 30.

DOI News Release: Interior Department Advances Three Solar Projects in California, Marking Significant Progress to Develop a Clean Energy Economy


The three projects will generate roughly 1,000 megawatts (or 1 gigawatt of power) and are the first projects approved under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) in the desert regions of seven California counties. 

 

Additional Resources

FEATURED REAP STORY FROM NORTH CAROLINA

Salisbury water buffalo farm installs solar panels with help from Rural Energy for America Program, Salisbury Post 

Caring for the buffalo and making products with their milk is hard work, and it also requires a significant amount of energy. That’s why the couple decided to install solar panels on the roof of their milking parlor and creamery last year. They were excited to find out in the spring they were awarded a $13,000 grant to help finance the project from the United States Department of Agriculture through its Rural Energy for America Program.

Next REAP Application Deadline: March 31, 2022

AMERICAN CLEAN POWER ASSOCIATION NEWS & RESOURCES

Celebrating Clean Power’s Progress and Reflecting on ACP’s First Year
ACP was created to unite the power of America’s clean energy industry. Our trade association brings together wind, solar, transmission and storage companies, along with manufacturers and construction companies, project developers and owners/operators, utilities, financial firms, and corporate purchasers of clean power to advance our shared goals and to transform the U.S. power grid to a low-cost, reliable, and renewable power system. 

Featured ACP Resources

Additional recommended reading on the above topic: Three Myths About Renewable Energy and the Grid, Debunked, by Amory B. Lovins and M.V. Ramana, Yale Environment 360

Renewable energy skeptics argue that because of their variability, wind and solar cannot be the foundation of a dependable electricity grid. But the expansion of renewables and new methods of energy management and storage can lead to a grid that is reliable and clean.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

USDA Invests $5.2 Billion to Build and Improve Critical Rural Infrastructure in 46 States and Puerto Rico

USDA News Release, December 16, 2021

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing $5.2 billion to build and improve critical rural infrastructure in 46 states and Puerto Rico. The investments reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to Building a Better America by investing in rural communities and will help expand access to high-speed internet, clean water and reliable electricity in people’s homes and businesses across rural America. Read more here.

Water & Environmental Programs
USDA investments in Nebraska by types and amounts:

Village of Mason City – Loans: $537,000 / Grants: $482,000
Village of Page – Grants: $82,000
Village of Whitney – Loans: $203,000 / Grants: $432,000

Electric Loans Total: $4,064,469,000
Just one example of USDA’s investments in this infrastructure category: $550 million to the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, a nonprofit created and owned by a network of rural electric cooperatives, with 1,000 member owners across 49 states. Headquartered in the State of Virginia.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

The roundtable focused on new private sector and philanthropic investments that have been spurred by the Administration’s efforts to support economic revitalization in energy communities. The roundtable also discussed the announcement of initial awards from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) $300 million Coal Communities Commitment to support economic revitalization, infrastructure investments, and quality jobs in coal communities with funding from the American Rescue Plan.

“Weatherization retrofits and home energy upgrades – like heat pumps, LED lighting, insulation and sealing up leaks — cuts monthly energy bills for families by up to 30%, and makes our air healthier,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Thanks to the investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, DOE will be able to help even more communities, cut more air pollution, and generate good-paying local jobs.” For more information about this effort, visit the Weather Assistance Program website.

Previously Posted

Growth, purpose, sustainability and diversity: What women leaders see for the future of clean energy

Contributed by Enel North AmericaBoston Business Journal

As the clean energy sector expands rapidly in Massachusetts and across the country, building an inclusive workforce is a top priority for many employers. In particular, there is a critical need for greater female representation, as women currently make up less than 30% of the clean energy workforce

We spoke with four women leaders from across Enel North America who are carving a path for the next generation. Although serving in different roles, they all shared common motivations for pursuing a career in clean energy, including growth opportunities, mitigating the climate crisis and contributing to local and global sustainability. Continue reading here.

Enel Green Power is a leading developer, long-term owner and operator of renewable energy plants with a presence in 14 statesRattlesnake Wind Farm was Enel’s first project in Nebraska.

Click here to learn more about Enel Green Power careers in renewable and sustainable energy and find a link to current opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.

WIND & SOLAR ENERGY EDUCATION IN NEBRASKA

Central Community College at Hastings

Programs

Northeast Community College in Norfolk

Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

JOBS LISTINGS – GOOGLE

MORE RESOURCES

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

DOE Upgrades One Million Homes as Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Provides Massive Investment in Energy Efficiency

Department of Energy News Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm traveled to Delaware today to announce that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has upgraded one million American homes with energy efficiency improvements through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program. The trip and milestone underscore the importance of the weatherization and energy efficiency investments that are within the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. Since 2001, the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program has helped American homeowners and renters save $7.7 billion on their energy bills and cut carbon emissions equivalent to a year’s worth of 11 coal-fired power plants.  

“DOE’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program has helped one million homeowners make energy-savings improvements at an affordable price,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “With the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal’s historic investments in energy efficiency and weatherization, we will ensure more Americans can benefit from cleaner air, more resilient homes, and lower energy bills.” Read more here.

Visit the Building Technologies Office to learn more about DOE’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program.

MORE ON THE BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE BILL

The White House Briefing Room

Reuters: US Energy Dept to hire 1,000 workers in infrastructure boost, officials say

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING & RESOURCES

USDA NEWS RELEASE

USDA Announces Scholars Programs for Students at Historically Black and Tribal Land-Grant Colleges and Universities