Federal Funding Resources

Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a couple of programs that are worth looking at for those facilities that are interested in funding renewable energy projects.

Rural Utility Service Loans and Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) offers low-interest loans and grants to fund renewable energy development in rural areas of the country. Essentially, any type of renewable energy source is eligible, as well as the associated electrical distribution and/or transmission facilities required to interconnect the project. The project must serve either the consumers of an existing RUS system or other rural areas with populations less than 2,500 (if the project is served by an electric utility other than a RUS borrower). Although most applications submitted to date have come from rural electric cooperatives, the program is not restricted to this segment. Awide range of potential applicants are eligible. USDA publishes a Notice of Funding Availability in the Federal Register to announce when applications are accepted. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/rus/electric.

Rural Business Opportunity Grants

This grant program could be applicable to a landfill gas energy project located in a rural area determined by USDA to have exceptional needs. USDA also offers grants that promote sustainable economic development in rural communities with exceptional needs. Typically, the grants go toward paying the costs of providing economic planning for rural communities, technical assistance for rural businesses, or training for rural entrepreneurs or economic development officials. This grant program could be applicable to a landfill gas energy project located in a rural area determined by USDA to have exceptional needs.

To be eligible for a Rural Business Opportunity Grant, applicants may be public bodies, nonprofit corporations, Indian tribes on Federal or State reservations and other Federally recognized tribal groups, and cooperatives with members that are primarily rural residents. Applicants must have significant expertise in the activities they propose to carry out with the grant funds and financial strength to ensure they can accomplish the objectives of the proposed grant. Applicants must be able to show that the funding will result in economic development of a rural area (defined as any area other than a city or town that has a population greater than 50,000 inhabitants and adjacent areas).

Projects eligible for Rural Business Opportunity Grant funding compete based on certain grant selection criteria. Priority points are awarded to those projects that best meet these criteria and are ranked from the highest to the lowest scoring. The criteria include:

  • The sustainability and quality of the economic activity expected as a result of the project

  • The extent to which the project makes use of other funding sources

  • The current economic conditions in the service area

  • The project’s usefulness as a new “best practice”

Grant funds may not be used for:

  • Duplicating current services or replacing or substituting previously provided services

  • Covering the costs of preparing the application

  • Covering costs incurred prior to the effective date of the grant

  • Funding political activities

  • Acquiring real estate

  • Constructing or developing buildings

The maximum grant for a project serving a single state is $50,000, and the maximum grant for a project serving two or more states is $150,000.

In addition to the USDA, the U.S. Department of Commerce offers a program that is also beneficial to those looking to fund their project.

Economic Development Administration Public Works Program

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) provides direct grants, on a cost-share basis, generally funding 50 percent of the project cost. The EDA’s Public Works Program helps communities in economic decline revitalize, expand, and upgrade their facilities. These changes help attract new industry, encourage business expansion, diversify local economies, and generate long-term private sector jobs and investments. The program seeks to redevelop existing facilities, whenever possible. EDA supports these types of projects because they promote sustainable economic development by taking advantage of available infrastructure and markets.

The Public Works Program supports locally developed projects that encourage long-term economic self-sufficiency and global competitiveness. Projects that have been funded in the past include: water and sewer facilities upgrades; technology-related infrastructure development; diversification of natural resource dependent economies efforts; commercialization and deployment of innovative technologies; business/industrial development; and the demolition, renovation, and construction of publicly owned facilities. Although the EDA’s Public Works Program has not yet funded a landfill gas energy project, such projects are eligible if they meet EDA’s investment criteria.

The following types of applicants are eligible for funding: economic development districts; states, cities, or other political subdivisions of a state or consortium of political subdivisions; Indian tribes; colleges and universities; public or private nonprofit organizations; and associations acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a state. Projects must be located in an area that exhibits economic distress at the time that the application is submitted. Economic distress is determined based on the level of unemployment, per capita income, or special need. Projects outside these areas will be considered if they directly benefit the distressed area.

Generally, EDA investment assistance may not exceed 50 percent of the project cost. Projects may receive an additional amount that shall not exceed 30 percent, based on the relative needs of the region in which the project will be located, as determined by EDA.

EDA conducts a preliminary review of all projects before requesting that a full application be completed. All projects must meet the criteria as explained in EDA’s Regulations at 13 CFR Chapter 3 and in the Agency’s annual Notice of Funds Availability published in the Federal Register. Pre-application forms and requirements can be found at www.eda.gov/InvestmentsGrants/Application.xml.

For more information, visit www.epa.gov/lmop/publications-tools/funding-guide/federal-resources/index.html.