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U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is investing $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure and to help rural communities, agricultural producers and businesses lower energy costs in 48 states and Puerto Rico.
“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.”
USDA is financing $129 million of these investments through the Rural Energy for America Program. 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.
“Arizona is ranked second in the nation in solar energy potential and is responsible for creating 8% of the state’s energy each year”, said Jeff Hays, Acting State Director. “The funding we are able to provide to these 12 businesses will help our rural communities to be less dependent on fossil fuel and will help to combat overall greenhouse gas emissions in Arizona,” said Hays.
Projects awarded in Arizona are:
- In Cochise County, Castle Cabinets LLC, San Tan Mechanical LLC, Joe Cool LLC, Wall to Wall, Wholesale Door and Window LLC, Go Maintenance LLC, and Gorenter.com will each receive a $20,000 grant to purchase a 40-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system to supply a portion of the electricity required to operate their facilities near Sunizona, Ariz. The renewable energy system is expected to generate 67,290 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year for each business, the amount used by 6.25 average U.S. homes, and reduce the business expenses by $9,420 each, savings they can invest back into their operations.
- Forestdale Farm, a small family-run organic produce farm in rural Flagstaff, Ariz., will use the $5,534 grant to purchase a 1.7-kilowatt photovoltaic system with battery backup. The improvements are expected to generate 2,555 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, equivalent to 25 percent of the usage of a typical U.S. home. More importantly, the battery backup will allow the farm’s water well pump motor to run without a generator and is expected to reduce the farm’s expenses by $3,000 per year, savings the farm can invest back into its operations.
- Sonoita Sustainable Ranch in rural Sierra Vista, Ariz., a family-owned cattle ranch, will use a $19,998 grant to purchase a 36-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The investment is expected to generate 61,100 kilowatts of electricity annually, the amount used by 5.75 average U.S. homes. It is also expected to reduce the ranch expenses by $7,943, savings the ranch can invest back into its operations.
- Cochise Family Farm LLC, a 60-acre family-owned and organically operated farm located in the Town of Cochise, Ariz., will use a $4,843 grant to purchase an energy-efficient water well pump. The new pump is expected to reduce the electrical demand by 32,317-kilowatt hours per year, which is enough to power three typical U.S. homes. It is also expected to reduce the farm’s utility bill by $4,820 per year, savings the farm can invest back into its operations.
USDA is also 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.
To learn more about these and other resources for rural areas, contact a USDA Rural Development state office.
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