New programs are in place to step up the use of renewable energy on farms through new grants and feasibility surveys:

1.    USDA announced yesterday that it is soliciting applications for a total of four renewable energy programs.

        a.     Rural producers and small businesses installing renewable energy systems can apply for grants and loan guarantees under the Rural Energy for America Program (“REAP”), with applications due by June 30, 2010, to purchase energy-efficient equipment, add insulation, and improve heating and cooling systems.

         b.   The USDA is going to solicit applications for three other renewable energy programs: the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance Program, and the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. The solicitation for those programs will be published in the Federal Register by May 7. See the USDA press releases on the survey and the funding, the REAP solicitation as published on the REAP Web site;

2.   The EPA and the USDA announced a new joint agreement on Monday to promote renewable energy generation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming operations. This is an expansion of the AgStar program, a joint EPA-USDA endeavor to help livestock producers reduce methane emissions. The program will provide $3.9 million over the next five years to help the livestock farmers recover and use the  biogas produced by decomposing manure.

3.   On-Farm Energy Production Survey: the decomposition of manure is accelerated by feeding it into an anaerobic digester. The  resulting biogas can be used to produce electricity, heat, or hot water. There are about 150 anaerobic digesters currently operating on farms across the US, and there are several thousand other farms that lend themselves to the installation of renewable biogas systems. To find out more, the USDA is now conducting the first national On-Farm Energy Production Survey, with results to be published in February 2011.