U.S. seeks applications for renewables grants, loan guarantees

The U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks applications for grants and guaranteed loans for renewable energy systems, including some hydropower, and for feasibility study grants for renewable energy systems, again including some hydropower. Applications are due July 31, 2009.

USDA’s Rural Business Cooperative Service is accepting applications for the current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1, to purchase renewable energy systems and to make energy efficiency improvements. It also intends to support feasibility studies for renewable energy systems for agriculture producers and rural small businesses.

The department’s Rural Energy for America Program is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption and help meet the nation’s critical energy needs, USDA said. Farmers and ranchers who obtain 50 percent or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible. Small businesses in rural areas also may apply. Rural electric cooperatives also might be eligible

The solicitation defines hydropower as energy created by various types of moving water, including ocean movement (i.e., tidal, wave, current, or thermal changes); diverted run-of-river water; in-stream run-of-river water; in-conduit water; and geothermally heated surface water. Only hydropower projects of 30 MW or less are eligible.

Renewable energy system grants can range from $2,500 to $500,000; energy efficiency improvement grants can range from $1,500 to $250,000. The minimum loan guarantee amount is $5,000 and the maximum is $25 million; the government will guarantee between 60 percent and 85 percent of the loan. The maximum amount for a feasibility study grant is $50,000 or 25 percent of the eligible project cost, whichever is less.

Application materials may be obtained from the Internet at www.grants.gov. The solicitation notice is available on USDA’s Rural Development website, www.rurdev.usda.gov, under www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/busp/9006grant.htm.

Applications are due July 31 to the Rural Development rural energy coordinator in the state in which the applicant’s proposed project is located. For information, contact USDA Rural Development-Energy Division, Program Branch, Stop 3225, Room 6870, 1400 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, DC 20250-3225; (1) 202-7201400.

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