In another federal effort to seed the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, the US Dept. of Agriculture announced Aug. 17, 2011, that it was awarding more than 900 grants worth a total of about $11.6 million to individuals and companies around the country. The grants, which average about $13,000 each, are for projects such as installing photovoltaic solar panels for a barn, improving energy efficiency of greenhouses, and installing a geothermal system for an agricultural building.
The grant money was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, through the Rural Energy for America Program. At a time of conflicting pressures – among them, reducing dependence on foreign energy sources while balancing the federal budget – it will be useful to investigate how this multitude of small grants fits into the picture. Is the money being well spent? Are the recipients worthy, and were they fairly selected? Were options other than federal funding available? Is USDA going to carefully assess if the money was spent as each recipient promised? What will be the magnitude of the energy savings?
For a full list of the recipients, see:
- Rural Energy for America Program Grants, $20,000 or Less,  Aug. 16, 2011 (includes state, city, individual's or company's name, dollar amount, and project type); press release. 
To get more details on each recipient and project, contact:
- Rural Development State Office, Agencies and Offices ; if you get stumped at the state level, try media person Weldon Freeman,  202-690-1384.
For background on the overall program, see:
- Section 9007: Rural Energy For America Program Grants/Renewable Energy Systems/Energy Efficiency Improvement Program.