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State gets $4M for rural renewable energy projects

On the heels of $22 million in federal cash for energy efficiency projects, Pennsylvania will get another $4 million more.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that $3.6 million will support another 30 projects for efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects “to lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resiliency of their operations in rural Pennsylvania.”

The goal is to make energy gains while improving the environment with the Rural Energy for America Program.

“REAP rural small business owners and farmers invest in energy audits and renewable energy development grants and loans that helps reduce traditional energy consumption and save money while positively impacting the environment,” USDA Rural Development State Director Bob Morgan said.

The biggest grants, $250,000 each, will go to installing solar panels at Tulpehocken Spring Water and Gardell Weaver, a chicken farm. The vast majority of grants are for solar panel systems for farms and manufacturing plants.

The grants continue significant spending by the USDA in Pennsylvania. In August 2022, $20 million came to the project for stream and farmland preservation, followed by $2 million in October for health care grants and $300,000 in December for restoration and entrepreneurial grants, on top of $1 million for similar renewable energy upgrades.

In June, another $42 million came to the commonwealth for school lunches to offset rising food prices.

Those funds, though, occasionally stray from what the public might consider their intent. Some $500,000 in climate change funds has gone toward repaving parking lots.

The $4 million for the 30 projects announced last week builds on the $22 million spent in the last fiscal year on 168 projects in rural Pennsylvania and is part of $1.3 billion spent nationally since December 2022 as part of the Rural Energy for America Program, authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The investments are helping to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and build a clean-energy economy that will combat climate change and make rural communities more resilient,” the USDA noted.

The REAP fund will provide another $145 million nationally through 2024 to fund projects “for underutilized renewable energy technologies.”

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