WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure and to help rural communities, agricultural producers and businesses lower energy costs in 48 states and Puerto Rico, announced Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, in a news release from the USDA.

“USDA continues to prioritize climate-smart infrastructure to help rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before,” Vilsack said. “We recognize that lowering energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers helps to expand economic development and employment opportunities for people in America’s rural towns and communities.”

USDA is financing $129 million through the Rural Energy for America Program. This program provides funding to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. These climate-smart investments will conserve and generate more than 379 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in rural America, which equates to enough electricity to power 35,677 homes per year.

USDA is financing $335 million through the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas. The loans include $102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.

Eight Maine businesses have been selected to receive REAP Loans and Grants for a total of $7,464,060:

• Wohelo Incorporated in Raymond has received $9,967, to be used to assist the business to install a solar photovoltaic system. This project will save $2,467 per year and will generate 16,790 kilowatt hours annually, enough to power one home. Wohelo is a set of girls’ residential camps.

• Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections in Freeport has received $20,000, to be used to install a new solar photovoltaic system. This project is expected to save $4,551 per year. It will generate 37,050 kilowatt hours per year, enough to power three homes. Wilbur’s of Maine is a chocolate and candy store.

• Dooryard Farm LLC in Camden has received $14,400, to be used to install a new solar photovoltaic system. This project is expected to save $1,603 per year. It will generate 28,718 kilowatt hours per year, enough to power two homes. Dooryard Farm, LLC., is a certified organic farm that grows vegetables and pasture-raised animals in and around Camden.

• Littlefield Retreat LLC in Springvale has received $13,000, to be used to help install a solar photovoltaic system. This company owns and operates Purposely Lost, an eco-friendly, carbon neutral, luxury-meets-camp retreat. This project is expected to save $1,284 per year and will generate 89,370 kilowatt hours per year, enough to power eight homes.

• Poor Richard’s Incorporated in Springvale has received $3,197, to be used to help install a solar photovoltaic system. This project is expected to save $1,018 per year. It will generate 7,100 kilowatt hours per year. Poor Richard’s Incorporated, dba Ferment Farm, specializes in heritage produce used to produce premium micro-batch foods including ice cream, fermented foods, and cider.

• Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company LLC in Whitefield has received $6,231, to be used to install a new solar photovoltaic system expected to save $2,200 per year and replace 16,542 kilowatt hours (100% of the company’s energy use) annually. This is enough energy to power one home. Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company LLC is a micro-brewery and tasting room.

• Morning Dew Farm LLC in Damariscotta has received $12,265, to be used to install a new solar photovoltaic system. This project is expected to save $3,100 per year and will generate 28,626 kilowatt hours per year, enough energy to power two homes. Morning Dew Farm LLC is a grower of organic vegetables and seedlings.

Meanwhile, Augusta Road Bowdoin Solar LLC in Bowdoin has received a REAP Guaranteed Loan of $7,385,000 in partnership with lender Crestmark, a division of MetaBank. This rural development investment will be used to provide permanent financing to build a 5.415 MWdc ground-mounted solar project. The project has interconnection and net energy billing agreements in place with Central Maine Power Company and is expected to produce 6,787,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in the first full year of operation.

For more information on the REAP Program, contact Brian Wilson, Business & Cooperative programs director, at 207-990-9125 or [email protected].