Arkansas gets small share of energy grants from USDA

by George Jared ([email protected]) 606 views 

Arkansas-based companies are slated to receive about $40,000 in grants as part of the $464 million the United States Department of Agriculture intends to spend on its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and it’s Electrical Loan Program. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement Thursday (Sept. 9) while on a conference call with reporters from around the country.

“USDA continues to prioritize climate-smart infrastructure to help rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before,” Vilsack said. “We recognize that lowering energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers helps to expand economic development and employment opportunities for people in America’s rural towns and communities. The investments we are announcing today demonstrate how the Biden-Harris Administration has put rural communities at the heart of climate action and climate-smart solutions.”

The Natural State received the second fewest REAP dollars trailing only Oklahoma which received about $23,000 for projects in that state, according to an analysis by Talk Business & Politics.

Singleton Farms Partnership, based in Watson, received a $15,840 grant to install a 32 kilowatt solar array that will save its farm operations $4,320 per year. Arsoft LLC, based in Pocahontas will receive a $12,838 grant 18.4 kilowatt solar array that is projected to save the property management company $3,242 per year. Jessland Plantation, located in Arkansas’s First Congressional District, will receive $11,413 to install two electric irrigation wells.

When Vilsack was asked how the grants were awarded, he said projects were ranked based on how their applications stacked against the program’s predetermined criteria, but he didn’t offer any specific examples.

USDA is financing $129 million of these investments through REAP. This program provides funding to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. These climate-smart investments will conserve and generate more than 379 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in rural America, which equates to enough electricity to power 35,677 homes per year.

USDA is financing $335 million of these investments through the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas. The loans include $102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.

Arkansas based Petit Jean Electric Cooperative Corporation will receive a $39.6 million loan through the Electric Loan Program. The loan will impact about 1,692 customers and will improve about 156 miles of electrical lines. The funding includes money for 122 miles of Smart Grid lines.