Western, DOE Office of Indian Energy, present free webinar for applicants
1-2 p.m. MDT
The Energy Department (DOE) announced on September 2 a $6 million grant opportunity to establish clean energy and energy efficiency projects on tribal lands. The Department’s Office of Indian Energy is soliciting applications from Indian tribes (including Alaska Native regional corporations, village corporations, tribal consortia and tribal organizations) and tribal energy resource development organizations to install facility-scale clean energy and energy efficiency projects and community-scale clean energy projects on Indian lands.
Accompanying the funding announcement, DOE issued a report showing that threats to tribal energy infrastructure are expected to increase as climate change exacerbates extreme weather conditions. Tribal Energy Systems Vulnerabilities to Climate Changeexamines in detail, region by region, how climate change is likely to affect the energy supply system serving tribal lands—including many system components that are not directly owned or controlled by tribes. The report concludes that tribes that own and operate their energy infrastructure have greater self-determination in building resilient energy infrastructures.
The Office of Indian Energy, in coordination with Western, is hosting an informational webinar on the funding opportunity on Sept. 16, 2015, from 1–2 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Attendees will hear who is eligible to apply, what the application needs to include, cost share and other requirements, how to ask questions and how applications will be selected for funding. There is no charge for the webinar, but advanced registration is required.
Applications must be submitted by Dec. 10, 2015, 5 p.m. ET.
The June 30 deadline is approaching for the final round of grants and guaranteed loan financing from the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
REAP funding helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Western customers are among the electric cooperatives, communities and businesses that have benefited from the program.
Making difference in Midwest Agricultural communities in the Midwest face many economic challenges in spite of the region generally enjoying low-cost power. Since the program’s inception in 2002, REAP has contributed to the economic health of this part of the country by helping farmers and small businesses reduce operating expenses. Rural electric cooperatives have used REAP funding to diversify their resource portfolios.
Nobles Cooperative Electric in Worthington, Minnesota, was an early REAP recipient. When the state legislature began considering a statewide renewable electricity standard, the co-op applied for a grant to install a utility-scale wind turbine in its territory. In addition to the $500,000 REAP grant, Nobels received $2.5 million through Clean Renewable Energy Bonds from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) to fund renewable energy projects. General Manager Richard Burud noted that the CFC and USDA assistance made the difference between doing the project and not doing the project.
Increasing irrigation efficiency In the dry western farming region of all-public power Nebraska, growers rely on irrigation systems that use great quantities of both water and energy. Many irrigation systems are powered by diesel engines, which have high carbon emissions and expose farmers to volatile fuel costs. Nebraska Public Power District, one of the state’s largest electric providers , teamed up with USDA Rural Development staff in 2004 to help more than 200 farmers receive REAP (then called Section 9006) grants to replace diesel or propane-fueled irrigation motors with electric motors.
Close cooperation was critical to the program’s success. Rural Development did extensive outreach to growers, focusing on irrigation projects, while NPPD staff conducted the energy assessments needed to apply for the grants. “We continue to support REAP projects by doing energy audits for applicants,” explained NPPD Energy Efficiency Consultant Ron Rose. “Audits performed by a certified energy manager earn more points for the applicant in the USDA scoring process.”
The farmers did their part too, working through the application process to receive grants that averaged around $7,000 per system. “The grants don’t pay for the whole project, but they lower the payback period considerably,” acknowledged Rose.
Given the fuel prices at the time, farmers were able to save as much as 30 percent of their irrigation energy costs by converting from diesel to electric. Rose noted that even though fuel prices have dropped, the electric pumping systems are still popular because remote management technology works better with electric equipment. “The farmers are able to control irrigation from their smart phones or tablets,” he said.
Helping customers helps utility The REAP project stabilized energy cost for the applicants, gave them greater control over their systems and has encouraged some growers to move to solar powered pumps. Investing in energy efficiency can increase the income for a farm or business, and buying and installing new equipment creates economic activity in the community.
An economically healthier community is always good for a public-power utility. More directly, moving some of its larger customers from fossil fuel to electric power adds to NPPD’s customer base. Other REAP projects, such as solar grain dryers and building envelope upgrades for small businesses, promise future benefits for peak load control while keeping the local economy strong.
Rose urges customers to contact their local USDA Rural Development offices to get their applications as soon as possible. Power providers may help support applications by providing energy audits. Also, keep in mind that REAP is a grant rather than a rebate, advises Rose. “Complete the application before you start the project.”
Award recognizes program’s contribution to community wind development
Windustry’s Community Wind Distinguished Service Award for 2015 went to a champion of energy efficiency and renewable energy development in small towns and farming communities.
The Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) received the award for its exemplary efforts to break new ground in making community and distributed wind accessible to all. The Windustry board of directors and a group of wind professionals presented the award to John Beeler of the USDA on March 26 at the advocacy group’s headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Funding for renewables, efficiency REAP has done outstanding work for rural communities since 2002, providing guaranteed loan financing and grant funding for a wide variety of renewable energy systems and energy-efficiency improvements.
In addition to wind generation, agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to buy, install or build:
Biomass (e.g. biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, and solid fuels)
Geothermal for electric generation or direct use
Small and large solar generation
The 2008 Farm Bill added tidal, wave, ocean thermal and hydroelectric systems below 30 megawatts to the list of eligible technologies.
REAP grants also fund projects that save energy (electricity, propane or natural gas or diesel fuel). Dairy pumps and cooling systems, weatherization of poultry houses, efficient lighting and ventilation, irrigation equipment, industrial motors and supermarket refrigeration systems are eligible.
Energy-efficiency grants cannot be used to expand facilities, or to support agricultural equipment or other vehicles. For renewable energy systems, only proven, commercially available and pre-commercial technology is eligible. Residential renewable energy systems do not qualify for grants, unless a small business, such as a rural electric cooperative, owns the system. Also, grants cannot fund research and development activities.
Still time to apply for 2015 Funding for Fiscal Year 2014 and FY2015 were combined this year for a total of $101 million, most of which has been allocated. However, the application deadline for the final round of REAP funding in 2015 is June 30.
Applicants should contact their USDA state energy coordinator early. State energy coordinators can help review applications and offer guidance, but they generally have less time to assist closer to the deadline. FarmEnergy.org, a website that provides information on the Energy Title programs of the Federal Farm Bill, is another source of assistance to newcomers to the application process.
Utilities also benefit from this often-overlooked source of funding for projects that support their efficiency and renewable energy goals and requirements. Contact your local REAP office to learn more about the application process, and then share that knowledge with eligible customers. You will not only increase customer loyalty, you may be helping REAP to win its next award.
The webinar will offer the latest information on irrigation and livestock pump efficiency measures, including pump testing and improved system design. Presentations will cover examples from the successful irrigation efficiency program at Nebraska Public Power District. A speaker from the Department of Agriculture will be on hand to offer advice on how REAP grants and loans can help achieve cost-saving improvements. You will also get details about free pump-testing resources available through Western for regional customers.
Utilities, local agencies, individual agriculture customers and those in related businesses will find this session useful.
CEA’s monthly Lunchtime Webinar series explores issues that affect consumer-owned power providers serving rural areas and small towns in the Great Plains and the West. The hour-long events generally take place on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 12 p.m. Central time. The focus is on cost-effective, easy-to-implement strategies to help utilities save money and build customer relationships. Discussions are lively and informal opportunities to share ideas with peers. Recordings of past webinars are available on the CEA website.
If you have any questions, please contact Emily Stark at 406-969-1040.
As part of its “SunShot Initiative,” the Energy Department (DOE) is offering $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses.
The Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity is intended to support regional, state, tribal and locally-driven efforts to develop multi-year solar deployment plans that will help provide business certainty and establish a clear path for the next five to ten years of solar deployment. A DOE webinar on April 22 will cover types of projects under consideration and what to expect from the concept paper and application process.
DOE expects awardees to convene stakeholder processes to develop their plan, and form subgroups, if necessary, to address specific topics such as the net benefits and costs of solar electricity (to and from the grid). Subgroups might also develop solar deployment programs including commercial property assessed clean energy financing, shared solar or incorporating solar within local emergency response plans.
Concept papers are due May 28 and full applications are due July 3. Read the press release for more information, including registration for the April 22 webinar, or see the funding opportunity announcement (Reference # DE-FOA-0001071).
CRN’s role in the project will be to coordinate demonstrations with at least two cooperatives to evaluate the PV systems and test the utility interconnection. In addition to assisting in the design of the project, CRN will also ensure the standards comply with the MultiSpeak specification, the de facto common interface model electric utilities use worldwide.
NRECA Research, Engineering & Technical Services Vice President John Hewa said, “CRN will be focusing on the integration of residential level solar resources on reliability and developing a system that works for both the consumer and the utility, simplifying the installation process without compromising safety or electric reliability.”
More than a dozen cooperatives across the country are developing community solar farms to meet the growing demand from consumer members for solar energy systems. This project will enable cooperatives to offer members more simple, safe and reliable options to add their own renewable energy generators.
The grant is part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other sources of energy by 2020.
The Cooperative Research Network conducts original, collaborative research for the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives.