Growers have until July 31 to apply for USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants. The grants provide money to purchase and install small wind turbines or other renewable energy systems. Growers, ranchers and rural business owners are eligible for grants to cover 25% of the total installed cost of the small wind turbine system. These USDA grants, when used in conjunction with the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), can help a farmer install a small wind turbine system for roughly 50% of the normal cost.
These incentives, when coupled with the cost savings realized from producing one’s own electricity, can result in impressive investment prospects. For example, according to David Shirkey of Renewable Options & Investments (ROI), in locations with 11 mph average wind speeds and with utility rates of $0.12 per kWh, a grower could realize a 12% annual rate of return on his investment and a payback of 8 years.
The incentive package may even be more attractive in certain locations where the local utility cooperative (or rural electric association) offers a rebate to its members. In these cases, farmers may realize an even greater return on investment and a shorter term payback.
The grant program is designed to assist farmers and ranchers who gain 50% or more of their gross income from agricultural operations. Rural small businesses with less than 15 employees are also eligible. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) offers examples of farmers and small business owners who have successfully installed small wind turbine systems on their property.
Not only do growers need to keep in mind that the deadline is fast approaching, but it may take up to 2 weeks for a farmer to fully complete an application, thus it is recommended to begin the process as soon as possible. For more information on the Web, click here.