Farmers and rural small businesses receive renewable energy funding

From press release

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.—Illinois Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan announced 141 agriculture producers and small businesses in Illinois have been selected to receive a total of $6.7 million to reduce energy consumption and utilize renewable energy. Funding is provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which was authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

“These guaranteed loans and grants will help farmers and rural small businesses use energy more efficiently, resulting in less energy consumption,” Callahan said. “When we reduce costs for farmers and rural small businesses, we are ultimately providing a boost to the local rural economy.”

One of the recipients, Big M Manufacturing in Taylorville, received a renewable energy grant to purchase a 20KW wind turbine. Big M is a family-owned business that has been manufacturing and marketing biomass-fueled heating systems to more than 80 distributors in the U.S. since 1992. With their utility’s net metering program, the electricity produced by the wind turbine is expected to completely offset Big M’s electric bill.

Nearly a third of the successful applicants are utilizing guaranteed loan funds in conjunction with grants to finance their energy efficiency improvement projects. The majority of the recipients will use the funding to upgrade their grain drier systems. On average, these recipients will realize a 35 to 40 percent reduction in energy usage.

“Recipients will use the funding to replace outdated and inefficient equipment with renewable energy technologies,” Callahan said. “This program is reinforcing a new renewable energy paradigm that focuses on a more efficient way to use our natural resources.”

REAP funding can be used for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, feasibility studies and energy audits; and renewable energy development assistance funds can be used for eligible renewable energy projects that produce energy from wind, solar, geothermal, hydro power, hydrogen-based sources and biomass, including anaerobic digesters. Funding can also be used to replace motors, refrigeration, ventilation and HVAC systems, add insulation, improve electrical systems and install automatic lights, and more efficient grain-drying systems.

Callahan also announced that Prairie Power, Inc., with headquarters in Jacksonville, Ill., is receiving a $98,000 grant to provide renewable energy development assistance for rural small businesses and agriculture producers. Southern Illinois Power Co-Op, with headquarters in Marion, Ill., was selected for a $100,000 grant to perform energy audits. The grants to these cooperatives will assist farmers and rural small businesses evaluate their energy efficiency potential and assess renewable energy technologies and resources that can be incorporated into their operations.

More information about the REAP program is at

Rural Development’s programs help to foster growth and economic stability in rural areas by providing affordable financing and technical assistance for homeownership, business development, community needs and technology infrastructure. More information about USDA Rural Development is available on the web at

Following is a list of the number and total funding awarded to Illinois REAP recipients in area counties:

Jo Daviess County—Three projects received a total of $50,358 in grants;

McHenry County—One project received $18,320 in grants;

Ogle County—Seven projects received $286,184 in grants and $291,913 in loans;

Whiteside County—Four projects received $114,528 in grants and $79,389 in loans; and

Winnebago County—Two projects received $39,927 in grants.

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