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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.