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REAP Success Provides Many Benefits for America

April 3, 2012

Audio with Scott Collins, USDA New York Rural Development Energy Coordinator (MP3 2.6 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:45.

The Renewable Energy for America Program has helped the U.S. make unprecedented gains in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Many clean energy projects across the nation have received funding through the program.

USDA Rural Development Energy Coordinator Scott Collins says REAP exploded across the country last year. Collins says competition was fierce in his state, New York. As a result, Collins says they were able to fund 73 REAP projects in New York last year—seven of which were wind projects.

"We're actually pleased that we were able to fund that many because we were besieged with solar applications this past year. Wind projects generally stand up fairly well to solar, but there were simply a massive number of projects that came to us. And as a result, we ended up with seven successful projects for wind. Generally on farms, in both cases, and ranging from one small 5-kilowatt project up to 20-kilowatt projects with several more larger projects, which we were unable to fund: 50-kilowatts and one 900-kilowatt."

Collins says the key to success for REAP project applications is a willingness to learn the program and learn how to turn in proper applications. He says it has worked to everyone's advantage. For example, Collins notes one wind turbine vendor's efforts in 2011.

"To tackle the REAP program, to do the work involved in preparing the applications, and to ask the questions to learn how to do a good application, a complete application. Do a good job on the technical report, which is critical for the competitive scoring. And because they did that, they learned the process well and were successful with five of the seven wind projects which we were able to award. And this has been the experience with most of our technologies in the REAP program."

Throughout his experience with REAP, Collins says he has learned it's best to start as early as possible with at least one vendor when pursuing a renewable energy or energy efficiency project. Also, he says it's important to have a good idea of the market—how projects are pricing out—to get the best price available. Collins suggests trying to work with a vendor who is familiar with the REAP process because of its complexity.

REAP's future is uncertain right now, Collins says, as this is the final year the program is authorized in the Farm Bill.

"We certainly think that given the dramatic upsurge in interest in the program through the past several years, we think there's a market out there. But that decision's not ours. We'll just sit back and wait and see what the congressional deliberations bring."

The final deadline for REAP applications is June 29th.

—Julie Jones