Rural Energy for America Program Provides Funding for On-Farm Small-Scale Wind Projects

May 16, 2024

WINDExchange produced an audio interview with Ian Baring-Gould, National Renewable Energy Laboratory senior project leader. Micheal Clements of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters interviewed Baring-Gould in spring 2024. Below is a transcript of the interview of Baring-Gould discussing federal support for expanding distributed wind energy on U.S. farmland. Listen to the audio file MP3 (6.4 MB). Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:04:40.

Micheal Clements: "The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture just launched a new initiative to help farmers cut costs and increase income using underutilized renewable energy technologies, including smaller-scale wind projects. Through the Rural and Agricultural Income and Savings from Renewable Energy (RAISE) initiative, USDA is setting an initial goal of helping 400 individual farmers deploy smaller-scale wind projects using USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP. Nearly $145 million in loan and grant awards funding is now available through REAP to help agricultural producers and rural small business owners make energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy investments to reduce energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resiliency of their operations. One of the renewable energy technologies eligible for the funding is smaller-scale wind projects. So what is a smaller-scale wind project? Ian Baring-Gould, a senior project leader at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, explains."

Ian Baring-Gould: "Smaller scale wind projects, distributed wind, so wind that is installed in a distributed application, is generally wind turbines that are installed behind the meter at a commercial/residential location, but they're smaller turbines typically then we see when the larger utility-scale wind turbines, and that means that they're deployed in different places than the large-scale wind turbines. So, we have lots of distributed wind installed in all 50 states of the nation, all the territories, because they really supply local energy needs. So, the needs of your home or your farm as compared to providing power directly to the grid, which is what the more traditional large wind turbines do. So, it’s to a degree harkening back to the old days when we had power generation or wind water pumping turbines on the farm, they serve exactly that same purpose. So, even though you might be connected to the grid, you can still produce your own local power either in an on grid application or an off grid application in the fields."

Micheal Clements: "REAP funding is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small business owners lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resiliency of their operations, and the new RAISE initiative recognizes how distributed wind can help these efforts."

Ian Baring-Gould: "The wind turbines that are available now typically produce power at lower cost than purchasing power or if you're using diesel engines or something of that nature to provide remote water pumping, then the solar or the wind has a much lower cost than those technologies. And so, it can reduce your costs for your farm or your small business. And then you also, depending on your local utility and policies in your states, you can also sell power back to the utility, and so it can become an income generation for you. And just like we've seen costs of solar technology dropped over the last decade, through a lot of work between companies and the Department of Energy, we've seen similar cost decreases in distributed wind technology. So, the turbines that you see on the market are half the cost as they were ten years ago. In addition, there are a lot of kind of incentives and grants that are available through USDA and others to be able to even lower the cost more.”

Micheal Clements: "It’s important for anyone considering a wind energy project to know that a new generation of reliable, high-performing, and cost-effective distributed wind turbines are certified to national standards."

Ian Baring Gould: "So, there's a whole certification process that is out there for wind turbines as there are for solar modules. And so, that has really helped ensure that the quality of the turbines that you can purchase on the market now are a whole lot better than they were a decade ago. Though, you have to be careful because there are still people selling turbines that don't meet the certification. So, you need to be careful to make sure you're buying a high-quality product, but these high-quality products are at much lower costs than they were a decade ago, so we get the benefit of higher quality and lower costs, which is a great thing for farmers."

Micheal Clements: "Agricultural producers and rural small business owners who want to learn more about smaller-scale wind projects can visit the Distributed Wind Resource Hub on DOE’s WINDExchange. Go to to see examples of distributed wind applications and to learn more about certified wind turbine models. A link to a new Distributed Wind Certification Best Practices Guideline is also available on the Resource Hub. The report can help guide REAP applicants to more information about certified turbine models. Anyone interested in applying for USDA’s REAP funding is encouraged to contact their local USDA State Energy Coordinators for more information. Interested applicants can also visit Enter Rural Energy for America (REAP) in the search box. Remaining application windows in 2024 end on June 30 and September 30. Reporting for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, I’m Micheal Clements."