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Support for On-farm Renewable Energy Schemes

by 5m Editor
10 July 2009, at 12:00am

The US has set some tough targets for renewable fuels and energy over the coming years, writes ThePigSite senior editor, Chris Harris.

When President Obama took office this year he also laid down guidelines and incentives to invest in new energy projects.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included more than $60 billion in clean energy investments that is designed to jump-start the economy and build the clean energy jobs.

A total of $11 billion has been earmarked for a bigger, better, and smarter grid that will move renewable energy from the rural places it is produced to the cities, where it is mostly used, as well as for 40 million smart metres to be installed in American homes.

Another $6.3 billion has been set aside for state and local renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts.

There have been other project that are increasing the fuel economy standards for for cars and trucks so they will get better mileage, saving drivers money and spurring companies to develop more innovative products.

The President has also issued a memorandum to the Department of Energy to implement more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances, such as dishwashers and refrigerators.

For rural America, there are also increasing incentives for the farming community, agricultural producers and rural small businesses to reduce energy costs and consumption and help meet the US's energy needs.

The Department for Energy says that the renewable energy and energy efficiency systems provide a significant opportunity for rural economic development and growth. These opportunities include increasing local revenue, bolstering the local job market, and increasing the economic yield of land.

"As many US farmers have discovered, renewable energy is the new cash crop of the 21st century," says the energy department.

"Landowners are reaping long-term additional revenue from their land, while continuing with their existing operations." The Rural Energy for America Programme (REAP) provides guaranteed loans that help to boost the local rural economies, through renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

"The projects have to be commercial and use commercial equipment," Teresa Bomhoff, the Rural Energy Coordinator for USDA Rural Development in Des Moines Iowa told a seminar at the recent World Pork Expo.

The REAP programme will provide grants or loans to fund projects such as renewable biomass projects, anaerobic digesters, geothermal projects, hydroelectric and hydrogen systems as well as solar, wind and tidal power plants.

The programme provides grants of up to 25 per cent of the eligible costs that can include feasibility studies and audits, as well as business plans and technical reports and the construction of new energy efficiency facilities. Alternatively, the rural businesses can apply for loans or combined loans and grants for up to 75 per cent of the eligible costs, that can also include working capital and land acquisition.

One stipulation is that no project can be used for residential purposes.

The maximum grant allowed is $500,000 for renewable energy projects and $250,000 for energy efficiency projects. Businesses can also apply for grants of up to $50,000 for stand alone feasibility studies.

Loans can go up to $25 million for all projects.

Teresa Bomhoff said that the current Farm Bill also indicated that a further $55 million will be put into the programme following the $60 million this year.

The US livestock farming community also has the AgSTAR Programme, which is a voluntary effort jointly sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Department of Agriculture, and the US Department of Energy.

The programme encourages the use of methane recovery (biogas) technologies at the confined animal feeding operations that manage manure as liquids or slurries.

These technologies reduce methane emissions while achieving other environmental benefits.

The programme supports biogas recovery systems such as an anaerobic digester with biogas capture and combustion to produce electricity, heat or hot water.

Biogas recovery systems are effective at confined livestock facilities that handle manure as liquids and slurries, typically swine and dairy farms.

Anaerobic digester technologies provide enhanced environmental and financial performance when compared to traditional waste management systems such as manure storages and lagoons.

Anaerobic digesters are particularly effective in reducing methane emissions but also provide other air and water pollution control opportunities.

AgSTAR provides an array of information and tools designed to assist producers in the evaluation and implementation these systems, including:

  • Conducting farm digester extension events and conferences
  • Providing "How-To" project development tools and industry listings
  • Conducting performance characterizations for digesters and conventional waste management systems
  • Operating a toll free hotline
  • Providing farm recognition for voluntary environmental initiatives
  • Collaborating with federal and state renewable energy, agricultural, and environmental programmes

June 2009