Oregon for-profit businesses won $1.2 million in loans and grants for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) in 2009, according to a Sept. 24 announcement made by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The amount, spread between 44 Oregon businesses, nearly doubles the number of ranches, wineries and other agri-businesses awarded grants from last year. Oregon businesses received 18 awards totaling $646,676 in 2008.

Although no Wallowa County businesses received REAP money in 2009, Jeff Diess, USDA Rural Development business and co-op program manager strongly encouraged Wallowa County businesses to apply this month for the next round of funding in spring 2010.

"We had more money this year for REAP than we ever had before and it sounds like in the coming year we'll have twice as much," Diess said. "This is a program that prefers small projects. The program is ideal for farmers and ranchers."

Grants are limited to 25 percent of the project cost and cannot exceed $500,000. Grants are awarded via a national competition based on merit. The entire 2009 budget for grants nationwide was $62.5 million.

The list of Oregon award winners included small wind projects, energy efficiency for buildings, biomass conversions and small hydro plants.

An example of an Oregon business that received funding is a Cottage Grove project proposed by berry and pumpkin farmer Michael Satterstrom to install a solar photovoltaic system at his farm. Satterstrom received just over $13,000 in grant money. The system will generate 8,400 kilowatts of electricity and reduce the farm's energy usage by nearly 60 percent annually.

Another Oregon winner was the Boston Beef House, a meat packer in Ontario. That business won $3,027 for energy efficient lighting.

Rudio Creek Ranch, in Kimberly got nearly $14,000 for a solar water pumping system at two livestock watering wells.

"The thing to do is to apply early," said Diess. "In this last round, the ones who applied early all got funded. Those projects that didn't get funded should resubmit and there will be room for more besides."

More information on the REAP program, visit (http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/or/reap.htm)

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