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Other states are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars for rural energy projects. Michigan is not.

Farms and rural small businesses in Michigan could be eligible for up to $500 thousand in grants for energy improvements.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Farms and rural small businesses in Michigan could be eligible for up to $500 thousand in grants for energy improvements.

There’s a federal grant and loan program available to rural small businesses and farms for renewable energy projects or energy efficiency improvements. Some other states are getting hundreds of millions of dollars. Michigan is not.

From 2018 to last year, Michigan received only $8 million in grants and loans from the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Compare that to the $137 million that Minnesota got. North Carolina and South Carolina received a combined total of nearly $1 billion. You can see the list of states here.

Brandon Fewins is the state director in Michigan for USDA Rural Development.

He says people in Michigan don’t seem to be aware of the ongoing program making grants and guaranteed loans available for renewable installations and efficiency projects.

“I was at an event with agriculture producers a little while ago. I asked during my portion of the comments how many people were aware of the (REAP) program and, really, only a few hands were raised,” Fewins said.

Of the grants and loans that have gone to rural small businesses or farms in Michigan, the preferred project is solar energy. But there’s a wide variety of projects that REAP will help fund.

“Geothermal, hydropower, wind generation, solar generation, when we're looking at energy efficiency, we're looking at things like insulation, doors and windows, HVAC equipment. I mean, it's pretty broad, what you can use the funds for,” Fewins said.

And the incentives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's REAP program are substantial.

“You can have grants for up to 50 percent of eligible costs. You can do a combined grant and loan guarantee to get up to 75 percent of the total cost of the project,” Fewins said.

More information about how to apply can be found here.

In a couple of weeks, the most recent grant and guaranteed loan approvals for Michigan will be announced.

The next two years will be important because there will be a huge increase in money available. The Inflation and Reduction Act passed by Congress will mean an additional $2 billion dollars in REAP funding. Grants were capped at $250 thousand. During the next cycle, small businesses in rural areas and farmers can get grants of up to $500 thousand for renewable projects and efficiency improvements.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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