• USDA REAP Energy Grants Available

    Grants to help farmers and ranchers with energy audits, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects

    USDA logo

    Farmers, ranchers, and other rural small businesses have until July 31, 2009 to apply for grants or loan guarantees to assist with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)—(Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill, formerly Section 9006 under the 2002 Farm Bill). REAP will provide funds to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to conduct energy audits and feasibility studies for renewable energy systems, for renewable energy development assistance, and to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.

    Farmers and ranchers who earn 50 percent or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible along with small businesses in rural areas and some rural electric cooperatives. Energy efficiency projects can include retrofitting, replacing, or purchasing lighting and insulation to reduce energy consumption. Energy projects can include wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower or other renewable sources. Projects cannot be used for any residential purpose.

    Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture
    Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture

    “We're trying to create strong rural communities,” stated Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, in a C-SPAN Washington Journal interview on May 28, 2009. “There is tremendous potential both in the biofuels area as well as in the wind, solar, renewable energy area for resurgence in those smaller and mid-sized operations. It's important for us to continue to invest in biofuels and renewable energy to provide additional income sources for the use of land. As we talk about the clean energy future of this country with climate change, I think they'll be other potential opportunities for income for our farm families.”

    The grants are awarded on a competitive basis and can be up to 25% of total eligible project costs. Grants are limited to $50,000 for renewable energy feasibility studies. Grants are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Grant requests as low as $2,500 for renewable energy systems and $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements will be considered. At least 20% of the grant funds awarded must be for grants of $20,000 or less.

    Detailed descriptions of the program provisions, application instructions, and USDA Rural Development State Office contacts are available in the Federal Register Notice (Vol. 74, No. 99, Tuesday, May 26, 2009). Information including a useful B&I/REAP comparison chart for loans and grants is available in the REAP/RES/EEI Annoucenment on the USDA web site.

    Synopses, forms, and online application systems are available at the Grants.gov web site:

  • Small Wind Grew 78% in 2008

    The U.S. market for small wind turbines—those with capacities of 100 kilowatts (kW) and less—grew 78% in 2008, with 17.3 megawatts (MW) of new electrical capacity, according to the 2008 AWEA Small Wind Global Market Study released by the American Wind Energy Association.

    Though small in comparison to the 8,500 MW of commercial-scale wind capacity added last year, the growth is significant with more than 10,000 turbines installed by businesses, schools, colleges, municipalities, and residential homeowners. Wind energy is now seen as a cost-efficient solution for energy needs, as 42% of all new power generation facilities in the U.S. last year included wind power. Public concern about energy independence and environmental issues have also played a role in this developing market.

    “Consumers are looking for affordable ways to improve their energy security and reduce their personal carbon footprint,” said Ron Stimmel, AWEA’s Small Wind Advocate. “Small wind technology can be an answer to that search. As government policies have caught up with consumer interest, we’re seeing people all across the U.S. take advantage of this abundant, domestic natural resource and U.S. manufacturers have been able to meet this increasing demand.”

    This unprecedented growth combined with the new 30% federal tax credit for small wind energy systems has U.S. small wind turbine manufacturers scaling up for even more growth in the future. The industry predicts a 30-fold increase in the US market over the next five years, even under current economic conditions.

  • Windustry to Organize Community Wind Energy Conferences

    Community Wind 2008 Conference
    Community Wind Conference 2008 in Albany, New York, organized by Windusty

    The United States Department of Energy (DOE) recently granted Windustry $100,000 to organize six regional Community Wind Energy Conferences over the next two years. Under its 20% Wind Energy by 2030 initiative, the DOE is investing in wind energy projects across the nation to advance market acceptance of wind energy in order to meet these renewable energy goals. Windustry will draw upon its extensive track record of organizing successful Community Wind Energy Conferences to approach new communities in key regions where wind energy development is growing rapidly.

    Please check back with our website for more details regarding timing and location of these Conferences in the next several months. If you would like any further information, contact Samantha Smart, Development Coordinator at samantha@windustry.org.

  • Wind Energy Growth in 2008

    In 2008 U.S. wind energy grew by over 8,500 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity, increasing the nation’s cumulative total by 50% to over 25,300 MW, pushing the U.S. above Germany as the country with the largest amount of wind power capacity installed, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Assocation (AWEA). Iowa surged past California into second place in the U.S. adding nearly 1600 MW to more than double its wind power generating capacity, with Texas still the leader in wind project capacity.

    The top five states in terms of capacity installed are:

    • Texas, with 7,118 MW
    • Iowa, with 2,791 MW
    • California, with 2,517 MW
    • Minnesota , with 1,754 MW
    • Washington, with 1,447 MW

    Both Iowa and Minnesota now get over 7% of their electricity needs from wind, with Minnesota ranking first with 7.48% followed closely by Iowa with 7.1%. Oregon moved into the club of states with more than 1,000 MW installed, which now numbers seven: Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon.

    "The wind energy industry today generates not only clean energy for our economy, but also hope and opportunity for American workers and businesses,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode.  “Whether it is building or maintaining a wind project, or producing wind turbine components, you’ll find people employed in wind power in nearly all 50 states today."

    Wind projects boost local tax bases, helping to pay for schools, roads and hospitals, according to the report. Wind projects also revitalize the economy of rural communities by providing steady income to farmers and other landowners. Each wind turbine contributes $3,000 to $5,000 or more per year in rental income, while farmers continue to grow crops or graze cattle up to the foot of the turbines.

    The American Wind Energy Association Annual Wind Industry Report for 2008 is available at the AWEA web site.

    Iowa Wind Farm Photography by Edith OSB, Some rights reserved.

  • Minnesota Transmission Line to Carry Wind Energy

    ST. PAUL, MN, April 16, 2009 — The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC) has granted the CapX2020 utilities a Certificate of Need to construct three 345-kilovolt electric transmission lines in Minnesota. The three lines will run from Fargo, SD to Monticello, MN; from Hampton, MN  through Rochester, MN to La Crosse, WI; and from Brookings, SD to Hampton, MN.

    CapX2020 is a joint project of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region led by Great River Energy and Xcel Energy to expand the electric transmission grid. "Today's decision provides direction for new transmission that will ensure customers in and near Minnesota will continue to receive reliable electricity and help provide capacity to meet the nation's most aggressive renewable energy standard," said Terry Grove of Great River Energy.As part of its decision the MN PUC required that 700 megawatts of capacity on the Brookings-Hampton line to be reserved for renewable energy, which will allow electricity generated by wind farms in the Buffalo Ridge area of southwestern Minnesota to be transmitted to the Twin Cities area. Moreover, all will be capable for double circuit transmission lines to allow for increased capacity over time.

    Some environmentalists opposed the certificate of need, and other critics were concerned that the transmission lines favor existing large power plants over smaller renewable energy sources that would benefit from a different transmission grid infrastructure that was more widely distributed. The MN PUC decision was a compromise between the various propronents and opponents of the project, and it will have an impact on the ability to connect wind farms to the transmission grid in the Midwest.

    “It's clear that significant transmission will be needed to reach Minnesota's Renewable Energy Standard,” commented Beth Soholt, director of Wind on the Wires, “and the Commission took an important step in granting the utilities the ability to construct the pieces of the transmission system that will deliver renewables to Minnesotans.”

    The MN PUC has yet to decide on the lines’ routes, with Route Permit applications currently under state review or in development, and decisions are expected in 2010. Regulatory processes are still pending for line segments in Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota; while an additional transmission line has been proposed between Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Construction of the lines could begin in 2012 and take several years to complete.

  • Windustry Honored as Wedgeshare Grant Recipient

    MINNEAPOLIS (March 3, 2009) — Windustry was honored as a 2008 Wedgeshare Grant Recipient from the Wedge Co-op, a Minneapolis natural and organic food cooperative with almost 14,000 member-owners. Grants went to a range of organizations that combat hunger, promote food safety, and foster renewable energy and sustainable communities.

    Since 1997, The Wedge’s WedgeShare charitable giving program has awarded grants to community non-profits whose work aligns with the cooperative principle that co-ops “work for the sustainable development of their communities.” This year, thirteen organizations that applied for WedgeShare grants made the final ballot. Wedge Co-op members voted to distribute the grants during the co-op’s annual election in October 2008.

    Windustry (a non-profit working to increase wind energy opportunities for farmers and rural communities) is the primary provider of high-quality energy information and assistance to farmers and rural communities in the Midwest. Requests for Windustry’s assistance continue to grow as interest in renewable energy has exploded. There is great potential for wind energy to provide economic and social benefits to Minnesotan and Midwestern farmers and rural communities, but these benefits will be maximized only if farmers and rural communities have high-quality, up-to-date, easily accessible information to help them make informed choices.

    Other WedgeShare recipients included the Emergency Foodshelf Network, Cornucopia Institute, Youth Farm & Market Project, Farmer’s Action Legal Group, Universal Healthcare Action Network of Minnesota, Community Design Center of Minnesota, Southside Family Charter School, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Local Fair Trade Network, Gardening Matters, Women’s Environmental Institute at Amador Hill and Urban Arts Academy.

  • How Will Stimulus Bill Help Community Wind?

    American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

    Obama signs stimulus bill
    President Obama signs American
    Recovery and Reinvestment Act

    Now that Congress has passed and President Obama has signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, how will this help to stimulate Community Wind projects? According to Denise Bode, American Wind Energy Association CEO, "the stimulus bill contains a number of provisions aimed at helping our industry continue the very strong growth in new installations and new jobs we have seen over the past few years." Some of the provisions include:

    • 3-year extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC)
    • Option for a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) instead of the PTC
    • Option to convert the ITC into a grant for projects placed in service before 2013
    • Additional loan guarantees, bonds, and tax incentives

    President Obama's goal with the stimulus package is to create a wide variety of initiatives to jumpstart the American economy. This opens up new sources of funding for renewable energy at a time when the Wind Energy industry is set for even more growth despite  being stalled by the economic downturn. These programs will allow Community Wind projects to take advantage of more funding opportunities.

    “Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines...”

    President Barack Obama
    Presidential Address to Congress
    February 24, 2009

    Wind facilities that qualify for the PTC can now make an irrevocable decision to take a 30% ITC in lieu of the PTC. In order to do so the project must be placed into service by December 31, 2012, and the PTC will no longer be available for the project. This has the potential to attract more investors who may not have enough passive activity income to realize the PTC. Which credit a taxpayer uses will depend upon an analysis of the project revenue and cost projections as well as analysis of the investor tax appetite. 

    Further, if the project qualifies for the PTC or the ITC and is placed into service between 2009-2010 (or it begins construction at that time and is placed into service before 2013) the project can choose to apply to the Treasury Department for a cash grant that is equal to 30% of the qualified costs of the project. This cash grant is in lieu of both the PTC and ITC. This means the value of the ITC can be realized, even if the taxpayer cannot take advantage of the credit. The rules and application guidelines for this program have not been finalized yet.  

    There are other provisions that address renewable energy financing on other levels. The Act removes the $4,000 cap on the small wind credit so taxpayers can now take the full 30% credit for a qualified small wind system.

    The Act also provides for an additional $1.6 billion for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) that are used to finance renewable energy. There have been no announcements yet that applications are being accepted for these new allocations, and no guidance has been given on how the program will operate. Previously, these bonds have been given at 0% interest rate, and the bondholder receives a tax credit in lieu of bond interest. 

    The Department of Energy received an extension of their authority to provide loan guarantees for qualified technologies under Title XVII of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 and an additional $6 billion for this program. Eligible technologies include electricity-generating renewable energy projects.   

    Read more on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Wind Energy Provisions at the Fredrikson & Byron P.A. web site and read how The Geniuses at DSIRE Translate the Energy Parts of the Stimulus Package via the Interstate Renewable Energy Council web site.

    Along with this important step forward to make wind power and other renewables a catalyst for America’s economic recovery, the American Wind Energy Association has launched an effort to enact a national renewable electricity standard (RES) and to make progress toward construction of the Green Power Superhighway, a new transmission system needed to fully develop America’s immense wind resources. Read more about the AWEA New Wind Agenda.

  • Green Power Express

    ITC Holdings Corp. has worked to develop the Green Power Express, a network of transmission lines that would facilitate the movement of 12,000 MW of power from the wind-abundant areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa to Midwest load centers, such as Chicago, southeastern Wisconsin, Minneapolis and other states that demand clean, renewable energy.

    This new project addresses the recognized lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate renewable wind energy.

    The Green Power Express could be a step to modernize the overburdened, aging electricity grid by building a high-voltage backbone to meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid. Once built the Green Power Express transmission project will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra high-voltage (765kV) transmission. The entire project is currently estimated to cost of approximately $10 to 12 billion.

    "The Green Power Express will create the much-needed link between the renewable energy-rich regions of the Midwest and high-demand population centers," said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC. "The Green Power Express is in many ways the true definition of a 'smart grid'."

    Due to the size and scope of this project along with the various state and federal approvals that will be required, ITC is aggressively targeting to have the Green Power Express in service by 2020.

    Read more about the Green Power Express.