Are you considering going solar to slash your ever-increasing utility bills?
Or what about gaining energy independence?
The gifts of solar energy are endless.
Solar panels for farms and ranches give you:
- A lifetime of savings on your energy bills (and the system pays for itself)
- Boosted profits
- Freedom from an unreliable power grid
- Credits from your utility company for excess power you send to the grid
- Money in your pocket with federal and local incentives
- A 20 – 25-year warranty on your panels
Nevertheless, we won’t sugar-coat it . . . solar is an investment.
But you don’t have to shoulder the total upfront costs yourself.
USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides grants to farmers and rural businesses.
The program aims to improve energy efficiency and independence for qualifying applicants through grants and guaranteed loans.
#1: A REAP grant can cover up to 25% of your solar project’s total equipment and installation costs.
#2: If you’re open to a guaranteed loan, you could get 75% of the costs covered with a loan or a combination of a grant and a loan.
The application process can be overwhelming, so we’ve outlined a step-by-step guide to make it easier.
1. Determine If You Are Eligible for a REAP Grant
Before you go through the process, you want to make sure you’re eligible to apply to the REAP program.
Eligibility requirements include:
- Farmers and ranchers who receive at least 50% of their gross annual income from their farm or ranch operations.
- Your farm can be located in a suburban or rural area.
- You can’t have any outstanding federal taxes that are delinquent.
- You also can’t have any delinquent debts or standing debarments or judgments.
- For a guaranteed loan, you must be a U.S. citizen or legally admitted to the country for permanent residence.
- Loan applicants who are private-entity borrowers also need to prove that their loan funds will remain in the US.
2. Get Your Data Universal Number System Number
Everyone who applies for a REAP grant needs a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number.
This is a unique nine-digit number assigned by Dun & Bradstreet that the government uses to process federal grants and loans.
If you’ve applied for a federal assistance program in the past, you may already have one.
You can call Duns & Bradstreet at (866) 705-5711 if you aren’t sure whether you already have one.
Getting this number is free, but it can take a few days to receive, so you should request it before beginning the application process.
3. Get Registered in the System for Award Management
Once you have your DUNS number, you need to register your farm or ranch in the System for Award Management only if you’re applying for a REAP grant.
If you’re only applying for the guaranteed loan, registration isn’t necessary.
Registering in the system allows you to do business with the Federal Government.
It’s also free.
You need to ensure you’ve registered before submitting your application.
4. Check the REAP Site for State-Specific Information
The REAP website provides essential information about the program.
This includes deadlines, state-specific information, and the name of the contact information for the Rural Development Energy Coordinator for your state.
It’s a good idea to get in touch with this individual before you begin the application process.
Speaking with the Coordinator can prevent you from taking any unnecessary steps and ensure you have everything required in your state to apply for a REAP grant or loan.
5. Obtain an Energy Audit
You’ll need an energy audit to complete your application.
The Energy Coordinator can help you set this up.
Often Coordinators or someone from their offices perform the energy audit.
6. Gather Supporting Documentation
The next step is to pull together all your supporting documentation that proves your farm or ranch operation is eligible and that you have a renewable energy project that qualifies.
- Financial statements & tax returns: You need financial statements and tax returns for your business for the past 3 years. If you haven’t been in the farming or ranching business for 3 years, use the information from the years you have been in operation for your REAP grant.
- Project installation quote: You need to obtain a quote for your energy efficiency project. The quote should cover equipment and installation costs. It’s also a good idea to obtain a copy of the agreement or contract the solar system company uses.
- Feasibility study: If you’re seeking an unrestricted grant or loan, you need to obtain a third-party feasibility study.
- Matching funds documentation: To qualify for a grant or loan, you need to provide proof that you have the money to complete your proposed project. This documentation can be in the form of a loan commitment letter, bank statements or investment statements.
7. Gather and Complete Appropriate Application Documents
After completing all preliminary steps, you can gather the required application documents and fill them out.
Every REAP grant application must include:
- Form SF-424: This is your application for federal assistance.
- Form 424-C: This form is for your project’s budget information.
- Form 424-D: Document your assurances for construction projects using this form.
- Form AD-3030: USDA uses this form to establish felony conviction and tax delinquency status.
- Form RD 1940-20: The Government uses this form to gather environmental information about your farm or ranch.
You’ll need to complete one more form, but which one depends on your anticipated project costs.
If your project is $80,000 or less, complete Form 4280-3A.
For projects that cost between $80,000 and $200,000, fill out Form 4280-3B.
Lastly, if you have projected costs of more than $200,000, you need to complete Form 4280-3C.
8. Submit Your REAP Grant Application by the Deadline
You can submit your application any time during the year, but the submission date determines which fiscal year you’re applying for.
If you seek a REAP grant or a grant and loan combination for $20,000 or less, you need to submit your application by 4:30 p.m. local time on October 31st to be considered for the following fiscal year’s awards.
Now, if you’re applying for a grant or grant and loan combination that’s more than $20,000, you need to submit your applications by 4:30 p.m. local time to be considered for that fiscal year’s awards.
You can file your application through a Rural Development office.
Get a Solar Installation Estimate for Your REAP Grant Application
You work far too hard to throw away good money.
At Unbound Solar®, we work with farmers and ranchers who want to gain energy independence.
We sell complete solar panel systems with free lifetime support.
If you’re ready to get a solar project estimate for your REAP Grant application, get in touch!