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Do Your Part in Securing a Sustainable Renewable Energy Future for America

May 1, 2012

Audio with Larry Flowers, American Wind Energy Association deputy director for distributed and community wind (MP3 3.1 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:19.

With Farm Bill discussions continuing, the Renewable Energy for America Program still faces uncertainty. American Wind Energy Association deputy director for distributed and community wind Larry Flowers says REAP made it into 2012—though at a much reduced level—due to work by the program's stakeholders.

Flowers says the program gives agricultural producers and rural businesses incentives to invest in renewable energy. REAP provides a 25-percent maximum grant and an equal amount of potential loan guarantees. Flowers says that makes if affordable for rural communities.

"As far as the wind industry goes, this allowed the small wind industry and the community wind industry to engage rural America, which has enormous wind potential, has a need for economic development and is interested in some self-reliance. And so it really did put together incentive packages that made a good match between small and community wind and rural America."

There are many applications for wind energy in rural America, Flowers says, including for irrigation, dairy processing, animal confinement operations, and energy around the farm. He says REAP provides farming operations incentives to reduce energy costs that have been growing over the years while also guarding against the fluctuation of energy.

"As some of the older coal plants get retired, the newer generation that comes on, whether it be coal or natural gas or renewable energy, is more expensive than these old, retired coal plants. Energy prices are going up and with fossil fuel, of course, they're variable, they're renewable energy, they're predictable because the fuel is free."

Flowers says it's important to engage the full spectrum of options for wind energy and renewable energy in the rural sector. The large wind farms provide great economic development to rural America and are important for rural America's future, Flowers says, but the smaller community wind projects also need to play a role with independence, security, economic development, and environmental benefits.

One of the important changes to REAP, Flowers says, is that it now applies to educational facilities. He says education is critical for a robust and sustainable renewable energy future. Wind for Schools is a program that goes along with this renewable energy education.

"We train teachers and we provide the kids with curriculums so they can see these options as they move into the workforce. It also, hopefully, interests them in the opportunity that renewable energy, and wind in particular, offers these folks as they go from high school either into the trade or right into the workforce in construction right out of high school or on to college. There's a whole broad array of wind occupations that are out there, and by putting small wind turbines at rural schools through the REAP program and introducing curriculum, we can excite the next generation about a robust wind future and their role in it."

Policy is another point of importance, Flowers says, because it determines what will happen. He says it all comes back to renewable energy stakeholders—including those in the wind industry and rural America—letting their lawmakers know REAP is an important piece of America's energy future. People can't just think someone else will speak up, Flowers says, but everyone has to do their part in securing a prosperous energy future.

—Julie Jones