May 2015
Farm & Field

Cultivating Energy

 
Bill Kyser, a catfish farmer in Hale County, switched his pond aeration systems from diesel to electric power. “Electrical aerators are more efficient and much more environmentally friendly.”   
   

USDA Rural Development offers loans and grants.

Alabama farmers and small rural businesses can apply for guaranteed loan financing and grant funding that could save them money and conserve energy.

The Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvement Loans and Grants are part of the 2014 Farm Bill. U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development administers the program, and applications are accepted year round.

"These efforts help farmers, ranchers and small business owners save money on energy bills, reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels, support America’s clean energy economy and cut carbon pollution," USDA Rural Development State Director Ronnie Davis said. "Several Alabama catfish and poultry farmers have received grants and are reaping financial benefits from the upgrades."

Davis said grant funds could be used for energy-efficiency improvements such as high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; insulation; lighting; cooling or refrigeration units; doors and windows; electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots; switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor; and replacing energy-inefficient equipment. Most REAP funding for Alabama has gone to farmers using the energy efficiency program, including Hale County catfish farmer Bill Kyser, who switched his pond aeration systems from diesel to electric power.

"Electrical aerators are more efficient and much more environmentally friendly," Kyser said. "Our electrical bill has tripled, but that was the idea. Our diesel fuel bill was cut in half, and now we’re getting twice as much aeration for 20 percent more money."

Davis said other ag-related applications could include irrigation systems and drying for farm commodities such as peanuts and small grains. Agribusinesses such as cotton gins and drying facilities also may qualify for energy-efficiency grants. Program funding includes grants for up to 25 percent of eligible project costs; guarantees on loans up to 75 percent of eligible project costs; or combined grant and loan guarantee funding up to 75 percent of eligible costs.

Guaranteed loans can be used to buy, install and build renewable energy systems to include biomass, geothermal, hydropower, hydrogen, and wind, solar and ocean generation.

More information and applications are available at local Rural Development offices or at http://1.usa.gov/1AlJtoH.