Ag secretary announces grants for renewable energy

SPENCER, Iowa—Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced Sept. 15 the selection of 167 recipients from 26 states to receive $22.8 million in competitive grants to support renewable energy efforts. The funds will be used by rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers to develop renewable energy systems and promote energy efficiency improvements.

Rural Development awarded three grants totaling $753,063 to Illinois companies. Renewable Energy Systems grants of $250,000 and $500,000 were awarded to GSG 3, LLC and GSG 2, LLC to purchase and install 11 turbines on two utility-scale windfarms. Both Lee County facilities are managed by Bruce and Joyce Papiech.

ComEd has agreed to purchase all of the electricity the wind farms generate, as much as 18 megawatts. Operating at maximum capacity, the new turbines could produce enough electricity to meet the annual power needs of 2,400 homes.

South End Plants Inc. received a $3,063 Energy Efficiency Improvement grant to replace five, 15-year-old furnaces in its main 13,000-square-foot greenhouse. The new spark ignition, high-efficiency models will pay for themselves in three years and save the company more than $3,000 annually. Jeff and Carol Rakers own and operate the Quincy greenhouse that grows bedding plants, hanging baskets, perennials and poinsettias for the local retail and wholesale market.

“This grant program helps agriculture producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption at the same time it helps us meet the nation’s critical energy needs. By fostering the production and use of alternative energy, we also ensure a cleaner environment,” said State Rural Development Director Doug Wilson.

Veneman said the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements program was created as part of the 2002 Farm Bill to assist farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses develop renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements to their operations. In 2003, the Bush administration invested under this program $21.7 million to develop or improve wind power, anaerobic digester, solar, ethanol and other bioenergy related systems or energy efficiency improvements in 24 states.

A large percent of the 94 renewable energy applications selected this year will support anaerobic digesters and small and large wind power type ventures. A predominate number of the 73 energy efficiency grants will go to agricultural producers who will use the funds for buildings. A complete list of the selected grant recipients and projects can be found at Funding of selected applicants will be contingent on meeting the conditions of the grant agreements.

The design and implementation of the grant program was accomplished through consultation with several federal departments and agencies, most notably the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

USDA Rural Development’s mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. As a venture capital entity, Rural Development provides equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA’s Web site at

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