USDA announces pilot program for renewable energy in rural towns

Up to $10 million is available to help residents of rural towns develop community renewable energy projects that will reduce their energy costs, said the USDA on Wednesday. Funding from the new Rural Energy Pilot Program will be targeted at communities that have been historically underserved by the government.

Cellulosic ethanol plant is retooled for renewable natural gas

Verbio North America says it will more than double the capacity of its plant in central Iowa to produce renewable natural gas from corn stover, and it plans to begin production of corn ethanol in the final months of the year. The facility was the first of three plants in the nation to return to biofuel production after faltering as a producer of cellulosic ethanol, made from grasses, woody plants and crop residue.

USDA to invest $464 million in renewable energy infrastructure in rural communities

The USDA will invest $464 million to strengthen electric service in rural communities through smart-grid technology and help agricultural producers and businesses add renewable energy systems to lower energy costs and build climate-smart energy capacity in 48 states and Puerto Rico, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday. 

Opinion: The sustainable-energy future has room for biofuels as well as electric vehicles

With the Biden administration and the major U.S. automakers investing heavily in electric vehicles, rural Americans — especially those connected to farming — are concerned about the future of biofuels. Given that ethanol, primarily made from corn, is blended with the gasoline that powers the vast majority of the nation’s vehicles, the prospect of replacing gasoline with electricity has enormous implications for the rural economy. In 2019, the global biofuels market amounted to over $136 billion.(No paywall)

House, Senate bills boost rural energy funding fivefold

The USDA program that promotes rural renewable energy production and energy efficiency would see annual funding of $250 million along with a $1 billion injection to address a backlog in applications under companion Senate and House bills introduced Thursday.

In public lands proposal, Warren seeks moratorium on drilling leases, free entry to national parks

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced her public lands policy platform on Monday, which includes an end to new fossil fuel drilling leases and an expansion of renewable energy production. Meanwhile, candidate Bernie Sanders said he supports imposing a moratorium on agribusiness mergers.

Smithfield aims for manure digesters, not lagoons, in three states

In order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, Smithfield Foods set a target on Thursday of equipping 90 percent of its hog-finishing facilities in three states with manure-to-energy digesters to capture biogas for eventual sale as renewable natural gas.

Trump backs biofuels but industry wants to see it in EPA rules

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says President Trump affirmed his commitment to biofuels during a telephone conversation amid Midwestern fears of a weaker Renewable Fuels Standard in 2018. Despite encouraging words from Trump and the EPA, the head of an Iowa group said biofuel backers won't rest until the EPA announces its final decision, due by Nov. 30.

‘Solar gardens’ sprout in southern Minnesota

A trade group for solar power says installation of solar panels is surging in southern Minnesota, especially in utility-scale projects, reports The Associated Press. In one instance, a farmer decided to lease a rocky eight-acre field for installation of solar panels with a total capacity of 1 megawatt of electricity and an annual rental payment that is "a lot more" than it was generating as a cattle pasture.

Solar farms, and farmers, create political sparks

As costs have dropped, solar panels are becoming a common sight, including in rural America, where farmers are using solar to offset their costs in a variety of ways, says Civil Eats. When farmers move beyond generating electricity for farmstead use into acres of solar panels, it creates a tussle between clean energy and preservation of open spaces for forests and farms, according to a news site in Connecticut, where solar has the upper hand.