WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that rural agricultural producers and small business owners can now apply for resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. These efforts help farmers, ranchers and other small business owners save money on their energy bills, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, support America's clean energy economy, and cut carbon pollution. These resources are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.

"Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America," Vilsack said. "The funding we are making available will help farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help a business reduce energy use and costs while improving its bottom line. While saving producers money and creating jobs, these investments reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution as well."

USDA is making more than $280 million available to eligible applicants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested.

USDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. The REAP application window has been expanded. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round.

Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

USDA is offering a second type of grant to support organizations that help farmers, ranchers and small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000.

The REAP program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Because of the success of the program, Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 Farm Bill with guaranteed funding of no less than $50 million in annual funding for the duration of the 5 year bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kilowatt hours annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.

In 2013, owners of the Ideal Dairy restaurant in Richfield, Utah, used REAP funding to install 80 solar modules and two 10-kilowatt inverters, which convert energy from solar panels to electricity. The owners have saved, on average, $400 per month. These savings have helped them preserve their restaurant and livelihood.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

Special Personal Cost Savings Report From Government Deal Funding!

People around the world, and around the country, are becoming less complacent about the choices they make. They are beginning to understand that some of the decisions they've made in the past were wrong and need to be changed. They are beginning to understand the renewable energy advantages.

Things like solar power and wind power are clean, renewable, and very cost effective for household use. As technology advances the advantages to these types of energy sources will only increase.

As we find even more advanced methods for converting energy from the wind and sun into power and learn more effective ways to store that power, we will dramatically increase the usefulness of these methods.

Many people are installing their own solar panels and wind turbines today, and both can effectively cut your energy bill as well as the negative impact of using fossil fuels for electricity.

Here is a list some some of the advantages to implementing renewable resources into your household:

1. By providing even a portion of your electricity needs using solar power and/or installing a wind turbine you can cut your utility bill by up to 80%. When you calculate what that would be over the course of years you will see that the savings is significant.

2. The more you can contribute to your own energy needs with renewable energy sources, the less of the pollutant rich fossil fuels you will have to use.

3. Neither wind nor solar power pollutes the environment with their use.

I know some of these things may seem obvious but it's important enough to be reiterated. If you want to help the planet and save money at the same time you owe it to yourself to do a little more research into renewable energy advantages. Saving money while saving the planet: there just isn't a downside.

Special Personal Cost Savings Report From Government Deal Funding!

Heading into this winter season many families are understandably nervous.  It's a tough economy and many people are worried about their jobs and keeping up with rising costs.  But there are many cheap, or free, things you can do to cut energy bills.  Here is a list of some of the easy, yet effective, changes you can start making today.

1. Make sure your furnace is ready for the winter.

Have a qualified HVAC professional check and clean your unit. Once the heating season starts make sure to change your filters monthly. If the filter is dirty it will restrict airflow which will use more energy since it has to work harder.

2. Add a programmable thermostat.

You can set it to automatically adjust the temperature at certain times of the day and certain days of the week.  That way the temperature in your home will automatically go down during the day when no one is home, or overnight.  It can also raise the temperature shortly before you get up in the morning.

3. Take care of your fireplace.

Make sure the chimney is cleaned and in good repair.  If you use your fireplace more than once a week you should have it professionally cleaned yearly.  Also install a cap or screen at the top of your chimney to prevent birds from building nests.

4. Caulk around your windows and doors.

The more heat loss you can prevent the less your furnace will have to run, and that will save you money all season long. Using window kits is another way to prevent heat loss from older windows.

5. Using wind power

(Think home windmill!) Along with the above winterizeing tips and this will more than put you ahead of the game; on cutting your long term electric bills.

Now is a good time to make some simple changes that can help you cut energy bills this winter. Take a few minutes now to save hundreds not only this winter but throughout the year and for years to come.

Washington D.C. — In support of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Department of Energy issued a loan guarantee solicitation today, making as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. This solicitation represents the next step in the Department’s commitment to support the deployment of innovative, clean energy technologies at commercial scale in the U.S.

“As the President emphasized in his Climate Action Plan, it is critical that we take an all-of-the above approach to energy in order to cut carbon pollution, help address the effects of climate change and protect our children’s future,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Investments in clean, low-carbon energy also provide an economic opportunity. Through previous loan guarantees and other investments, the Department is already helping launch or jumpstart entire industries in the U.S., from utility-scale wind and solar to nuclear and lower-carbon fossil energy. Today’s announcement will help build on and accelerate that success.”

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee Solicitation is intended to support technologies that are catalytic, replicable, and market-ready. Within the solicitation, the Department has included a sample list illustrative of potential technologies for consideration. While any project that meets the appropriate requirements is eligible to apply, the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities including micro-hydro or hydro updates to existing non-powered dams; and efficiency improvements.

During the 30-day public comment period, the Department held six public meetings around the country and accepted written comments online.  The solicitation issued today addresses many of those comments and the full public comment record is available online.

With today’s announcement, the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) is now accepting applications in three areas, which also include the $8 billion Advanced Fossil Energy Projects solicitation that was released in December 2013 and the $16 billionAdvanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.

Currently, the LPO supports a diverse portfolio of more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and commitments, supporting more than 30 projects nationwide. The projects that LPO has supported include one of the world’s largest wind farms; several of the world’s largest solar generation and thermal energy storage systems; and more than a dozen new or retooled auto manufacturing plants across the country.