USDA REAP Grant Program Information

The Ultimate Guide to USDA REAP Grants: Empowering Rural America's Energy Future

A Comprehensive Resource for Agricultural Producers and Rural Small Businesses

The USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is a federal initiative designed to assist rural agricultural producers and small business owners in reducing energy costs and implementing renewable energy systems.

REAP provides grants, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to support energy efficiency and renewable energy in rural US communities, established by the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized later.

Key Components of REAP

  1. Grants and Loan Guarantees: One of the primary features of REAP offers financial assistance in the form of grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy systems (solar panels, wind turbines, biomass facilities, geothermal systems) and energy efficiency upgrades (insulation, lighting, HVAC improvements).
  2. Technical Assistance: REAP offers technical assistance alongside financial support to help applicants navigate the application process, assess project feasibility, and ensure compliance. This assistance can be invaluable for rural entrepreneurs and agricultural producers lacking expertise to implement energy projects.
  3. Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for REAP assistance, applicants must be in a rural area, as defined by the USDA, and involved in agricultural production or a small business. Projects must show a benefit in energy efficiency improvement, cost reduction, or renewable energy generation. Applicants must meet criteria related to project size, ownership, and environmental regulations.
  4. Application Process: Applying for REAP assistance involves submitting a detailed project proposal outlining the work scope, costs, energy savings or generation, and environmental impact. The USDA reviews applications competitively, considering project feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and potential for job creation and economic development in rural communities.
  5. Scoring System: REAP uses a competitive scoring system to evaluate applications and fund the most impactful and feasible projects. Understanding the scoring criteria is essential to optimize your application and improve your chances of success.

Check your REAP Grant Eligibility.

Check Now

Funding Opportunities: Grants, Loans, and Beyond

REAP offers a variety of funding mechanisms to cater to diverse project needs:

  • Grants: Awarded to cover a portion of eligible project costs, with maximum amounts varying based on the type of project (renewable energy or energy efficiency).
  • Loan Guarantees: Backed by the USDA, these guarantees facilitate access to loans from lenders, covering up to 75% of total eligible project costs.
  • Combination Grants and Loan Guarantees: This blended approach provides both grant funding and loan guarantees, offering comprehensive financial support for larger projects.

History and Purpose of the USDA REAP Program

The REAP program, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, was reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill due to its success. The 2014 bill guaranteed at least $50 million in annual REAP funding for 5 years, building on rural economic gains and achieving taxpayer savings through reform. 

It provides grants and loan guarantees to help implement renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, aiming to reduce costs, decrease fossil fuel reliance, and promote sustainability. 

The program has evolved to support projects like solar panels, wind turbines, efficient lighting, and biomass systems. REAP helps rural businesses and producers reduce expenses, increase energy independence, and contribute to the transition to sustainable energy through funding and technical assistance, playing a vital role in promoting clean energy initiatives and rural development.

USDA REAP Core Mission and Benefits

At its heart, REAP embodies the USDA's commitment to fostering a thriving and sustainable rural America. 

By providing financial incentives and support for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, the program aims to:

Reduce Energy Costs

Lower energy bills for agricultural producers and rural businesses, freeing up resources for further investment and growth.

Enhance Energy Independence

Decrease reliance on traditional energy sources and volatile energy markets, fostering self-sufficiency and resilience within rural communities.

Promote Environmental Stewardship

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and contribute to a cleaner environment for future generations.

Stimulate Rural Economic Development

Create jobs, attract investment, and spur economic growth within rural communities.

Benefits of Participating in the USDA REAP Program

Participating in the USDA REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) offers numerous advantages to individuals, businesses, and communities. Some key benefits include:

  1. Financial Assistance: One of the primary benefits of the USDA REAP program provides financial assistance in the form of grants, loan guarantees, and combination financing. This support offsets costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, making sustainable energy solutions more feasible.
  2. Cost Savings: Participants in the USDA REAP program can save money by using renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency. Lower energy bills, reduced maintenance expenses, and potential revenue from excess energy production can bring long-term financial benefits.
  3. Environmental Impact: The USDA REAP program helps individuals and businesses reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. Participants can mitigate climate change and promote sustainability by adopting renewable energy technologies and energy-saving practices.
  4. Energy Independence: Investing in renewable energy through the USDA REAP program can help achieve energy independence. By generating clean energy on-site, participants reduce reliance on traditional sources and insulate themselves from price fluctuations and supply disruptions.
  5. Job Creation and Economic Development: The USDA REAP program can stimulate economic growth and create employment in rural communities by supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, generating local jobs, attracting investment, and fostering a more sustainable economy.
  6. Enhanced Reputation and Branding: Participating in the USDA REAP program can enhance the reputation and branding of individuals and businesses by demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. This can attract environmentally conscious customers, investors, and partners by showcasing efforts to adopt clean energy solutions.

Check your REAP Grant Eligibility.

Check Now

USDA REAP Eligibility Requirements

Agricultural producers

  • Gross income ≥50% from agricultural operations
  • Own the project
  • Own or control the project site
  • Demonstrate energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction
  • Project technically feasible, financially viable, and with a reasonable return on investment
  • Meet the applicable energy standards
  • Meet the applicable environmental requirements
  • Must have no outstanding delinquent federal taxes, debt, judgment, or debarment

Rural small businesses

  • Located in eligible rural areas (one of the following):
    • Private for-profit entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation)
    • A cooperative [including those qualified under Section 501(c)(12) of IRS Code]
    • An electric utility (including a Tribal or governmental electric utility) that provides service to rural consumers and operates independent of direct government control)
    • A Tribal corporation or other Tribal business entities that are chartered under Section 17 of the Indian Reorganization Act (25 USC 477) or have similar structures and relationships with their Tribal entity without regard to the resources of the Tribal government.
    • Meet the Small Business Administration size standards in accordance with 13 CFR 121.
    • Must have no outstanding delinquent federal taxes, debt, judgment, or debarment

Eligible Project Locations

  • Projects must be located in rural areas with populations of 50,000 residents or less
  • Agricultural producers may submit projects to be located in non-rural areas as long as the project is associated with an on-site production operation

Eligible Project Types

  • Renewable Energy Systems (RES):
    • Biomass
    • Geothermal
    • Hydropower
    • Hydrogen
    • Wind
    • Solar
    • Electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots
    • Switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor
  • Energy Efficiency Improvements (EEI):
    • Replacing energy-efficient equipment
    • Energy audit or assessment (depending on total project costs)

REAP Application Step-by-Step Guide

Assessing Project Eligibility

Project Location

Verify that your project is located within a designated "rural area" as defined by the USDA. Utilize the USDA's online mapping tools or consult with your State Energy Coordinator for assistance.

Project Scope

Ensure your project aligns with REAP's eligible technologies and project types, whether it focuses on renewable energy generation (e.g., solar, wind, biomass) or energy efficiency improvements (e.g., HVAC upgrades, insulation, lighting).

Applicant Eligibility

Confirm your entity qualifies as an agricultural producer or rural small business based on the USDA's criteria.

Developing a Robust Project Plan

  • Clearly Defined Objectives - Articulate the specific goals and objectives of your project, outlining how it addresses your energy needs and contributes to sustainability goals.
  • Technical Specifications - Detail the technology and equipment you plan to implement, including specifications and efficiency ratings.
  • Implementation Timeline - Present a realistic timeline for project completion, accounting for key milestones such as permitting, procurement, and installation.
  • Accurate Cost Estimates - Provide a comprehensive budget with detailed cost estimates for all project components. Obtain multiple quotes from vendors and contractors to ensure accuracy and cost-effectiveness.

Key Resources During Your REAP Application

Rural Development State Energy Coordinator

Your State Energy Coordinator is an invaluable resource throughout the application process, offering guidance, answering questions, and providing feedback on your project proposal.


The official USDA website provides comprehensive information on the REAP program, including eligibility requirements, application materials, deadlines, and success stories.

REAP Grant Experts

Consider seeking assistance from experienced REAP consultants who can guide you through the application process, optimize your proposal, and increase your chances of success.

Gathering Application Materials

  • Access Forms and Documents - Download the necessary application forms and supporting documents from the USDA Rural Development website], ensuring you have the most up-to-date versions.
  • Required Documents - Prepare essential supporting documents such as business and project plans, financial statements, vendor quotes, proof of site control, environmental studies (if applicable), and permits or approvals.
  • Completing Application Forms - Follow Instructions Carefully: Complete all required forms accurately and thoroughly, providing all requested information about your project, budget, and anticipated energy savings or generation.
  • Attention to Detail - Avoid errors or omissions that could delay the application process or lead to rejection.

Packaging and Submitting Your Application

  • Organize and Label: Assemble your application package in a clear and organized manner, following the specific instructions provided by your State Energy Coordinator. Label all documents and forms clearly for easy identification.
  • Submission Methods: Verify the preferred submission method for your state, whether it's through an online portal, email, or physical mail. Ensure you submit your application before the deadline.

Check your REAP Grant Eligibility.

Check Now

REAP Scoring System

REAP utilizes a competitive scoring system to evaluate applications and award funding to the most impactful and feasible projects. Familiarizing yourself with the scoring criteria is crucial for optimizing your application and increasing your chances of success.

Key Scoring Categories:

  • Energy Savings/Generation Potential (25 points): This category carries the most weight, emphasizing the project's ability to significantly reduce energy consumption or generate renewable energy. Provide detailed calculations and data to demonstrate the anticipated impact.
  • Prior REAP Funding (15 points): New applicants who have not previously received REAP funding receive bonus points, encouraging wider participation in the program.
  • Payback Period (15 points): Projects with shorter payback periods, indicating a quicker return on investment, score higher. Focus on cost-effective technologies and solutions to maximize energy savings or generation per dollar invested.
  • Location in a Distressed Community (15 points): Projects situated in designated economically disadvantaged rural areas receive additional points, aligning with REAP's goal of supporting community development in areas with the greatest need.
  • Matching Funds Commitment (10 points): The level of matching funds you secure demonstrates your commitment and investment in the project, influencing your score positively. Explore various funding sources such as personal funds, loans, or other grant programs.
  • Environmental Benefits (10 points): Highlight the environmental advantages of your project, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved air or water quality, or resource conservation. Quantify these benefits whenever possible to strengthen your application.
  • State Director/Administrator Points (10 points): Each state may have specific REAP priorities and allocate points accordingly. Consult with your State Energy Coordinator to understand these priorities and tailor your application to align with them.

Strategies for Optimizing Your Score

  • Emphasize Energy Impact: Clearly articulate the anticipated energy savings or generation potential of your project, using reputable industry tools and calculators to provide accurate and convincing data.
  • Demonstrate Financial Viability: Focus on a short payback period and showcase the economic benefits of your project, including cost savings and potential revenue generation.
  • Secure and Verify Matching Funds: Gather strong documentation to demonstrate the availability of matching funds, showcasing your commitment to the project's success.
  • Highlight Environmental Benefits: Quantify the positive environmental impacts of your project and weave a compelling narrative that connects your project with broader sustainability goals.
  • Align with State Priorities: Understand your state's specific REAP priorities and tailor your application to address these areas of focus.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During the USDA REAP Program Application Process

While the REAP grant application process is designed to be accessible, common pitfalls can hinder your chances of success. By being aware of these potential challenges, you can proactively address them and strengthen your application.

  • Incomplete or Rushed Applications

    Ensure your application is complete, well-organized, and submitted before the deadline. Allow ample time for gathering information, completing forms, and proofreading your application thoroughly.

  • Inaccurate Information

    Double-check all calculations, figures, and information provided in your application for accuracy and consistency. Errors or inconsistencies can raise concerns about the credibility of your proposal.

  • Neglecting Environmental Impact

    Don't solely focus on energy savings or generation. Clearly articulate the environmental benefits of your project, demonstrating your commitment to sustainability.

  • Shared Meters

    If your project involves a shared meter with a residential component, ensure you have a clear and transparent methodology for isolating the energy usage related to the REAP project.

  • Overlooking State Priorities

    Failing to align your project with your state's specific REAP priorities can result in missed scoring opportunities.

Check your REAP Grant Eligibility.

Check Now

Post-Application: Implementation & Reporting

Evaluation and Selection

  • Staying Informed: Maintain communication with your State Energy Coordinator to stay updated on the status of your application. Be responsive to any requests for additional information or clarification.
  • Understanding the Process: The USDA evaluates applications based on the scoring criteria outlined above.
  • Projects with the highest scores are typically selected for funding, depending on available resources.

Grant Award and Disbursement

  • Reviewing the Agreement: If your application is successful, carefully review the grant agreement, including all terms, conditions, and reporting requirements.
  • Project Account and Recordkeeping: Establish a dedicated account for project funds and maintain meticulous records of all project-related expenses.
  • Compliance: Adhere to all USDA REAP program guidelines and regulations throughout the project lifecycle.

Project Implementation

  • Contractor and Vendor Management: Work closely with your chosen contractors and vendors to ensure the project is completed on time, within budget, and according to specifications.
  • Overseeing Milestones: Monitor project progress and address any challenges that may arise promptly and effectively.
  • Reporting: Submit regular progress reports and financial statements to the USDA as required by the grant agreement.

Long-Term Sustainability:

  • Monitoring and Maintenance: Implement a plan for ongoing monitoring and maintenance of your renewable energy system or energy efficiency improvements to ensure long-term performance and cost savings.
  • Community Engagement: Share your success story and inspire others in your community to embrace renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Additional Resources and Support

  • USDA REAP Website: The official USDA REAP website provides comprehensive information about the program, including eligibility requirements, application materials, deadlines, and success stories.
  • State Energy Offices: Each state has an energy office that can offer information on state-specific energy programs and resources.
  • REAP Grant Experts: Consider seeking assistance from experienced REAP consultants who can provide personalized guidance and support throughout the application process.
  • Industry Associations and Organizations: Professional associations and organizations in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors can offer valuable insights and resources.

REAP Grants: Powering a Sustainable Future for Rural America

The USDA REAP program serves as a catalyst for transformative change in rural communities across the United States.

By embracing renewable energy and energy efficiency, agricultural producers and rural small businesses can reduce costs, enhance their competitiveness, and contribute to a cleaner environment.

This guide has equipped you with the knowledge and tools to navigate the REAP program and secure funding for your sustainable energy project. With dedication, careful planning, and the support of available resources, you can harness the power of REAP to build a brighter future for your business and your community.

Remember, the journey towards a more sustainable and resilient rural America begins with a single step – take that step today and join the REAP revolution.

REAP Grant Eligibility Tool

Is the entity applying as a small business or an agricultural producer?
Project Location

Check your REAP Grant Eligibility.

Check Now