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

USDA Partners to Improve Electric Infrastructure for More Than 347,000 Rural Americans Across 13 States

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $398.5 million to improve rural electric service in 13 states. “Reliable and affordable electricity is undeniably a necessity in today’s world,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in keeping our rural communities connected to this essential infrastructure.” USDA is making the investments through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program. Read the entire news release here.


DOE provides $148M in funding for separate energy storage research efforts, Utility Dive
Department of Energy News Releases
Department of Energy Announces New Projects to Extend Grid Energy Storage
Department of Energy Announces $120 Million for Battery Innovation Hub



6 Charts Showing the Renewables Threat to Natural Gas, Greentech Media

Photo Credit: NextEra Energy



PBS provides FREE, standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans and more for teachers, parents and students. Entering the term “solar energy” into the search box provided on the website currently results in 2392 resources.

USDA Invests $345.5 Million in Rural Electric Infrastructure to Improve Service for More Than 1 Million Residential and Commercial Consumers in 14 States

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $345.5 million in 20 infrastructure projects to improve rural electric service in 14 states. “Delivering reliable and affordable electricity to power rural America will help lay the groundwork for increased rural prosperity and economic opportunity,” Secretary Perdue said. “USDA is partnering with rural electric utilities and cooperatives so they can continue to invest in infrastructure improvements to provide electric power to those who live and work in rural areas.” Read the entire news release here.

Electric Infrastructure Loan Program finances generation, transmission and distribution projects; system improvements; and energy-conservation programs in rural areas.

Who may apply for this program?

Most retail or power supply providers serving qualified rural areas, including:

  • State and local governmental entities
  • Federally-recognized Tribes
  • Nonprofits including cooperatives and limited dividend or mutual associations
  • For-profit businesses (must be a corporation or limited liability company)

Nation’s Largest Solar Bee Farm in Ore. Creating Buzz

Public News Service

The Eagle Point solar farm outside Medford is the largest “solar apiary” in the country, incorporating designs that benefit pollinators. It’s home to 48 bee colonies interspersed among solar panels, which are generating enough energy to power more than 2,100 homes annually. Rob Davis, who directs the Center for Pollinators and Energy for the nonprofit Fresh Energy, connected North Carolina-based Pine Gate Renewables with a beekeeper in southern Oregon.
Read the entire news release here.

Photo by Pine Gate Renewables: A solar farm near Medford, Ore., also is home to 48 thriving bee colonies.

USDA, NIFA Announce Investments in Pollinator Health Research, USDA Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 14 grants totaling approximately $10 million for research to help sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“One-third of all U.S. crop production requires pollination by animals – primarily honey bees, but also wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and bats,” said Acting NIFA Director Tom Shanower. “Recent declines in both managed and wild pollinators are of paramount importance to our nation’s food security and the vitality of natural resources.”

Rural Energy for America Program Grants & Loans

Several members of Nebraskans for Solar’s ListServe have inquired about the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants and loans. Please check out the following resources:

    What does this program do?
    Provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.
    Who may apply?
    Agricultural producers with at least 50% of gross income coming from agricultural operations, and
    Small businesses in eligible rural areas.
    Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Fact Sheet

Jeff Carpenter, USDA Rural Development 100 Centennial Mall North, Suite 308
Lincoln, NE 68508
402) 437-5554

    The Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at UNL conducts energy audits to meet USDA Rural Development grant and/or guaranteed loan application requirements. Energy audits can be conducted at any time by Nebraska MEP staff but must be completed in advance of USDA application submission deadlines. MEP focuses on areas where local electric utility providers do not offer free audits. Nebraska MEP, which received an Energy Audit Program grant from USDA Rural Development, will pay 75% of the cost of an audit. Applicants will be required to pay 25% of the cost.

Matthew Jorgensen
Project Specialist
Nebraska MEP
(308) 293-5884

Celebrate National Pollinator Week June 19-25 With Free Fresh Energy Webinar

Ten years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

The Pollinator Partnership is proud to announce that June 19-25, 2017 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Watch Solar and Pollinators, a Fresh Energy Webinar this Thursday, June 22nd from 12 to 1 p.m.


Powering America with a More Sustainable Energy Future

USDA Results Interview With Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack


USDA has been working closely with farmers and ranchers to make critical investments in renewable fuels, from manufacturing facilities to storage tanks and dispensing pumps, and bio-based products, including research breakthroughs and enhanced product visibility. Even in rural businesses or on the farm, USDA has supported significant deployments of solar and wind power systems, anaerobic digesters, and energy efficiency solutions. These USDA investments have created remarkable momentum in rural economic growth. Read more.

Photo: Some of the solar panels at Seldom Rest Farm located north of Myerstown, Pennsylvania. The farm was awarded a $152,000 grant (25% of the cost) to install the
1000-kilowatt solar array to power their farm, a neighboring farm and homes on the local electrical grid. Flickr image.


REAP one of many programs offered by USDA

By Bill Sheppard / USDA, Fremont Tribune

Minden Farm

REAP [Rural Energy for America Program] is available to agricultural producers (51 percent or more of gross income comes from agriculture production) and rural (any area that has a population of 50,000 or less and is not adjacent to or is not a contiguous part of an urbanized area) small businesses (as classified by the Small Business Administration). The goal of the program is to reduce energy use and cost, and to help meet the Nation’s energy needs. REAP has two types of funding assistance available: grants and/or guaranteed loans. Assistance is available for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems. Read the entire article here.

Photo: 21-kilowatt solar array at a family farm in Minden, Nebraska, which provides most of the farm’s energy needs. The project was partly funded by a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant, which covered 25% of its cost. Additional financing was obtained through the Nebraska Energy Office’s low-interest loan program for solar installations. Courtesy of Graham Christensen / GC Resolve

Bill Sheppard is a USDA Rural Development Business Programs Specialist in Norfolk. He can be reached at 402-371-5350 Extension 104 or by email at bill.sheppard@ne.usda.gov.

Click here for a list of all Nebraska USDA Contacts.

Resources for Nebraska farmers on how to “go solar” and profit from it

Hammond Farm Photo by Matt Ryerson, Lincoln Journal Star.

Hammond Farm.  Photo by Matt Ryerson, Lincoln Journal Star.

Renewable energy is a hot topic nowadays among farmers here in Nebraska and states all across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and other national and local organizations provide numerous resources for farmers on how to harness the power of the sun and profit from it.

These include information on various uses of solar energy technologies in farm operations, ongoing research, programs and policies. The costs of installing solar have greatly declined in recent years and continue to drop. Publications written even a short time ago don’t reflect this good news and, instead, create the impression that solar is more costly than it actually is.  The best sources of up-to-date information on costs are free estimates from local solar installers listed in our online directory and others.

Resources may also not include information about solar incentives and rebates, which significantly reduce the costs even more. Again, local solar professionals can provide this information, as well as the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) : Nebraska incentives, grants and loans for renewables and energy efficiency- 46 programs. (DSIRE)

The following are only a select number of the many available resources on using solar on farms and homes. Please email any additional resources you’d like to add to this list to: nebraskansforsolar@gmail.com

Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture (PDF)
This April 2011 report from the USDA provides an “overview of solar energy use by farmers and ranchers in the U.S. that identifies trends and future potential.”

Determining the Optimum Solar Water Pumping System for Domestic Use, Livestock Watering or Irrigation (PDF)
USDA. Conservation and Production Research Laboratory
This publication helps farmers and landowners select a stand-alone solar photovoltaic system for water pumping. Steps include deciding whether a wind or solar water pumping system would be best, determining the type of PV module, how controller can affect the decision, selecting pump type, and analyzing the monthly water demand requirement.

Farm Energy Alternatives
ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
Includes a section on solar energy with success stories, links, and select publications.
Solar Greenhouses https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/viewhtml.php?id=59

Florida Solar Energy Center
University of Central Florida
Publications and other information sources on solar energy education, effect on the environment and building, photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies.

Spring Deadline for Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grants
Nebraskans for Solar

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grants
US Department of Energy – Nebraska
Jeff Carpenter, Energy Coordinator, Rural Development – 100 Centennial Mall North, Room 308 Federal Building, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508. Telephone: 402-437-5554
Email: jeff.carpenter@ne.usda.gov  Website: www.rd.usda.gov/ne 

Farm Energy Success Stories
Farm Energy.Org

Up with the Sun: Solar Energy and Agriculture
Union of Concerned Scientists

Solar Energy Basics
National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

Lincoln Journal Star: Farms flexing solar power

Houston Chronicle: Solar power gaining popularity among Nebraska farmers

Nebraskans honored as White House “champions of change for sustainable and climate-smart agriculture”

Norfolk Daily News 

In an effort to conserve the use of fossil fuels, [Martin] Kleinschmit now owns and manages MarLin Wind & Solar, LLC. He currently holds positions on a rural water district board and the Nebraska Farmers Union. His wife, Linda, also is a longtime champion for the family farm, preservation of natural resources and the rural way of life. The other Nebraska honorees are Keith Berns and his brother, Brian, who are co-owners and operators of Providence Farms at Bladen. The 2,000-acre diversified family-farming operation and Green Cover Seed, is one of the nation’s leading providers of cover-crop information and seed. Read more here.

Martin Kleinschmit

Martin Kleinschmit

Keith and Brian Berns

Keith and Brian Berns






White House News Release: FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces New Efforts to Promote Sustainable and Climate-Smart AgricultureThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced funding for more than 1,100 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy usage and costs in their operations nationwide.

USDA Seeks Grant Applications for Rural Renewable Energy Projects by October 31st

USDALINCOLN, NEBRASKA – The next deadline for Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grants is October 31, 2015.  This deadline for grant applications has designated funding for small projects requesting $20,000 or less (25% of total eligible project costs). Grant requests for this round have a simplified, streamlined process and can be as low as $2,500 for renewable energy projects and $1,500 for energy efficiency projects. All agricultural producers, including farmers and ranchers, who derive 50% or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible. Businesses in a rural area, meeting the Small Business Administration size standards, may also apply. A private entity, a rural utility, and rural electric cooperatives are typically eligible; however, nonprofit and public bodies are not eligible.

USDA Rural Development provides financial assistance in the form of grants and guaranteed loans to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements through the REAP.  This program provides funds for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and to make energy-efficiency improvements.  The renewable energy projects range from installation of solar, geothermal, wind, and biomass; and energy efficiency improvements to irrigation systems, poultry houses, upgrading air conditioning, lighting and refrigeration systems.

Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. CST on October 31, 2015.  Please contact Jeff Carpenter, State Energy Coordinator, at the Nebraska USDA Rural Development State Office, Suite 308, Federal Building 100 Centennial Mall North Lincoln, Nebraska 68508, call 402-437-5554 or email jeff.carpenter@ne.usda.gov.

The next funding deadline will be April 30, 2016 for projects of any size with maximum grants limited to $500,000 for renewable energy projects and $250,000 for energy efficiency projects (25% of total eligible project costs).  Any eligible applications not funded during the October 31, 2015 funding cycle will be reconsidered.

To find the office which serves your county visit: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-re...Click on “View All State Program Contacts.” You may also visit this same website for more general information on the program and details on how to apply for funding.


  • Federal Tax Credit of 30% for qualified installations
  • Accelerated depreciation for businesses
  • Self-Employment Tax Credit

USDA Rural Development Awards Funding to 23 Nebraska Recipients to Assist with Energy Needs – August 26, 2015

USDA Invests $63 Million to Support 264 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects—15 Nebraska Energy Projects Funded at Nearly $159,000 – August 12, 2015  

USDA Rural Development Awards Funding to 15 Nebraska Recipients to Assist with Energy Needs – August 4, 2015 

Funding supports Energy Audits in Rural Nebraska to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses in evaluating the energy efficiency of their operations and considering alternative equipment, machinery and systems. – July 7, 2015

USDA Rural Development Awards Funding to 15 Nebraska Recipients to Assist with Energy Needs – June 12, 2015