What are REAP Grants and How They Could Fund Your Solar Canopy Projects  

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has been providing financial assistance for over two decades through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grants to eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses to install renewable energy. These energy efficient improvements and renewable energy investments lower energy costs, generate income, and provide resilience to their business operations. More detailed information on the REAP Grant can be found on the USDA’s website.

Application Qualifications

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) offers guaranteed grant funding and loan financing to small rural businesses and agricultural producers for renewable energy projects and efficiency upgrades to existing renewable systems. Agricultural entities can also apply for loans for new energy-efficient systems and equipment to aid in their production and processing. This program has almost $1 billion in funding from the federal government, an increase provided by the recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

To qualify for REAP Grants, your client’s project must be in a rural area with a maximum population of 50,000 residents or they make 50% of their gross income from agricultural operations. This map from the USDA provides areas of eligibility. The funds can be used to purchase and install a wide range of renewable energy systems, including small and large solar power systems and many other solutions, ranging from geothermal for electric generation to biomass systems, and hydropower.

The funds can also be used to purchase and install energy efficiency improvements, such as HVAC systems, lighting, electric or solar pumps for sprinklers, electric irrigation motors, solar parking lot upgrades, and more. They can also be used to replace energy-inefficient equipment with better alternatives, such as Brooklyn Solar Canopy Co.’s A-Frame and Post-Truss solar pergolas or commercial solar canopies.

Funding Opportunities

The available funding includes loan guarantees on loans of up to 75% of the total costs of eligible projects, grants of up to 50% of total project costs, and combined grant and loan guarantee funding of up to 75% of total project costs. Participants can receive up to $1,000,000 to install renewable energy projects and up to $500,00 for energy efficiency projects. So, if you had a solar project at a total cost of $2,000,000, you could have $1,000,000 of that covered through the REAP Grant. Funds are provided once the project is completed, and invoices are submitted to the USDA for reimbursement.

It is important to note that applicants will need to provide at least 25% of a project’s cost if applying for a loan, and that energy efficiency projects will require an energy assessment or audit to qualify. All projects will also require an environmental review before any grants may be awarded. Work can begin once the project has been approved or when the grant has been awarded, whichever the customer desires.

Tax credits for solar systems can be applied and would require that customers investigate the local state and the federal incentives that apply to their project.

Important Dates and Next Steps

There are now quarterly funding opportunities applicants can submit their REAP Grants. The first round of the expanded application process starts April 1, 2024, and ends June 30, 2024. The second round starts July 1, 2024, and ends September 30, 2024. If your application does not get approved, it will automatically be resubmitted for the next round until the end of the USDA’s fiscal year of October. If an application is approved funding notice can occur around six to eight weeks once submitted but this time will vary per application.

To have a third-party grant writer prepare your application it can vary greatly from the company’s internal pricing models, the state your located, the complexity of the application, and the budget. The average cost of a third-party grant writer is around $100 – $200 per hour and the time to write a REAP Grant can take 30-45hrs or more.

REAP Grants and Agrivoltaic Solar Canopies

While the REAP Grant can be applied to several different renewable applications, agrivoltaics stand out because of its ability to combine solar generation and crop production. The Department of Energy (DOE) projects through a Solar Futures Study that solar could increase from 4% of 2020 national energy production to 45% national energy production in 2045. Subsequently, this would require the use of 7.4 million acres of land and 10.4 million acres of land by 2050 with an estimated 90% of this occurring on rural land. Desirable, fertile farmland is ideal for solar development due to its sunny, flat, dry, and temperate climate, which negatively results in the loss of economically productive farmland used for food and livestock.

This problem provides a solution for agrivoltaics as a necessary option not only for the need to expand our national sustainable infrastructure, but also to limit the impact of solar development on usable farmland.  Since the REAP Grant would provide one of the most suitable funding options for an agrivoltaic project, there would be certain criteria to be considered for applying, mainly the optimization of solar power generation while maintaining the agricultural component. The overall design and its documentation will need to emphasize energy optimization and agricultural ability while highlighting any additional benefits.

Power Up Your Rural Business with REAP Grants and Solar Canopies

The increased funding for REAP Grants through the Inflation Reduction Act opens exciting possibilities for rural communities and agricultural businesses to embrace solar energy. These grants can significantly offset the cost of installing solar canopies, including innovative agrivoltaic systems that generate clean power without sacrificing farmland.

With deadlines approaching, consider contacting Brooklyn Solar Canopy Co. to explore if your project qualifies for a REAP Grant and discuss how solar canopies can benefit your business. Remember, additional resources from the USDA and third-party grant writers can help navigate the application process. Don’t miss this opportunity to turn sunlight into savings and sustainability for your rural enterprise. Each state has USDA coordinators, so feel free to reach out to your local representative for additional information!