Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman unveiled the availability of approximately US$44 million in grants that will support President Bush’s energy plan to develop Renewable Energy and expand the economic prospects and environmental promise of biomass.Washington, D.C. – April 9, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “Developing alternative energy sources that reduce pollution and increase energy security is an important part of the administration’s overall energy policy,” Veneman said. Both programs were authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill and will be conducted in collaboration with the Department of Energy. Veneman said that US$23 million is available from USDA’s Rural Development for the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements programs to assist farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses develop Renewable Energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements to their operations. Through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, US$21 million in grants are available to eligible entities to carry out research, development and demonstrations on biobased products, bioenergy, biofuels, biopower and related processes. “This is a time of enormous transformation in American agriculture,” said Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr. “We need to be bold in recognizing – and capitalizing on – new opportunities. Energy is unquestionably one of those areas that presents tremendous opportunities for economic gains and ultimately an improved quality of life.” Applicants for the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements program must be agricultural producers or rural small businesses, U.S. citizens or legal residents, and have demonstrated financial need. Rural Development grant funds may be used to pay up to 25 percent of the eligible project costs. Eligible projects include those that derive energy from a wind, solar, biomass, or geothermal source, or hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar, or geothermal energy sources. Awards will be made on a competitive basis for the purchase of Renewable Energy systems and to make energy improvements. “Whether for Renewable Energy systems or energy efficiency improvements, this investment will pay dividends to the whole of our country,” said Assistant Secretary of Energy David K. Garman. “Rural America can help to fulfill the promise of the President’s National Energy Plan in expanding the nation’s overall supply of clean and affordable energy for a new century of economic growth.” Detailed information about program requirements and information on how to apply is available from the Federal Register. Additional information on the grant program and other USDA Rural Development programs can be obtained by visiting the site below. The solicitation package (USDA-GRANTS-031803-001) is also posted on the federal funding opportunities Web site below.