REAP: The federal solar grant all Minnesota rural businesses should know about

August 23, 2023 6:48 am

Photo by Getty Images.

Minnesota passed legislation this year mandating 100% carbon-free energy by 2040, so we know our energy systems are going to change. That includes where and how energy is produced, sold and transported. 

As this transition unfolds, rural communities have the opportunity to directly benefit from it. 

You may be familiar with the clean energy tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act, like the 30% tax credit for rooftop solar or battery storage.

But Minnesota farmers and rural small businesses, in particular, have the opportunity to take advantage of major federal funding designed to help them benefit from the emerging energy transition, thanks to a little-known program called Rural Energy for America Program.

REAP is a federally funded grant and loan program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps farmers and rural small business owners access renewable and efficient energy technologies, like solar. This includes urban farms as long as 50% or more of their income comes from farming. 

The federal government established the program through the 2002 Farm Bill. Since then, REAP has helped thousands of businesses afford solar panels and other clean, money-saving technologies such as high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. 

The IRA improved and made a $2 billion dollar investment in the REAP program, quadrupling its funding. Before the IRA passed, a farmer or rural small business owner could receive a grant that covered up to 25% of the cost of solar. Thanks to the IRA, a REAP solar grant now covers as much as 50%.

That’s a game-changing number for a small business owner. The bolstered REAP program powerfully impacts Minnesota farms and small rural businesses’ ability to install and own solar. In fact, nationally it will allow 41,500 farms and rural small businesses to become solar energy producers.

Solar is great for farms and rural small businesses. By producing their own energy, businesses can lower their energy bills and carbon footprint. REAP lowers the upfront costs of investing in solar, so they can start saving money on day one. Solar also offers stability, by helping business owners control their energy costs long-term. 

REAP is a direct investment in agricultural and rural Minnesota communities, and all farms and rural small businesses need to hear about it. This huge new influx of funding to the REAP program has the potential to be transformative. With it, Minnesota’s rural communities can start producing their own power and keep energy dollars local.

Solar United Neighbors will host a webinar to help farms and rural small businesses apply for REAP Wednesday at 7 pm. A Minnesota farmer who used a REAP grant to go solar and a USDA official that helps administer the REAP program will explain REAP. SUN has also put out a new guide and other resources to help farms and rural small businesses apply for a REAP grant.

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Bobby King
Bobby King

Bobby King is the Minnesota program director of Solar United Neighbors, where he is working to create a democratic energy system that benefits everyone. He educates and engages fellow Minnesotans about solar energy. Previously he was an organizer with the Land Stewardship Project for 20 years, where he worked with members to maintain a family farm‑based system of agriculture.