Program Helps Bring Distributed Wind Projects to Rural America

Jan. 29, 2018

Audio with Jon Miles, James Madison University professor and director of the Center for Wind Energy. MP3 2.8 MB. Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:04.

The Department of Agriculture’s renewable energy development assistance program helps bring wind energy to the farm. The program seeks to increase energy independence by increasing the private sector supply of renewable energy, such as distributed wind, while decreasing the demand for energy through efficiency. Over time, these investments can also help lower energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers. Jon Miles is a professor at James Madison University in Virginia and the director of the university’s Center for Wind Energy. He and students at the university, with state government support, are working to enhance distributed wind in Virginia.

"And that is, to try to identify stakeholders around the state who would be eligible for REAP support, that’s the Rural Energy for American Program through the USDA, and would be interested in the possibility of deploying distributed-scale wind. That is small to intermediate wind systems, on site, intended to produce power to be consumed on site."

Staff at the Center for Wind Energy also developed a map of the state showing the best areas on a county level where distributed wind would see the greatest success. He says distributed wind offers many benefits for farmers.

"Clearly, the opportunity to produce power onsite, to let’s say, take some control over how their power is produced and from what sources. And also the opportunity potentially to add some sense of energy security to the extent that coupled with storage, renewable energy systems would provide an on-site source of energy should there be any disruption from the grid."

Distributed wind provides an economic benefit as well.

"With the generous funding that the USDA has been providing to the REAP program for a number of years, for not just wind systems but all sorts of energy systems, the lifetime cost of energy from these systems is competitive with, if not less than, what a farmer, an ag producer, a small business, would be spending for their power from more traditional sources."

He says distributed wind is an important element of the state’s energy mix and can be for other states as well.

"I think it’s fair to say that REAP is open to all sorts of different energy sources and, for that reason, when we interact with potential adopters, we do try to make clear that solar could be an option as well, and in fact, a hybridization of both wind and solar on a site might be an attractive option. In the conversations that we have had with some potential adopters, they also appreciate the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions."

For more information, interested parties should contact their State Rural Development Energy Coordinator. Visit www.rd.usda.gov and select Browse by State to find your coordinator. Applications for the renewable energy development assistance program are accepted year-round.