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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will accept $220.9 million in loan and grant applications within department's renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements program.

"As demand for energy rises, these renewable energy loans and grants help farms and rural small businesses increase their investment in renewable energy initiatives," said USDA Secretary Ed Schafer at the recent Washington International Renewable Energy Conference.

Loan guarantees and grants are available to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

Eligible applicants may seek loan guarantees to cover up to 50% of a project's cost, not to exceed $10 million. Grants are available for up to 25% of a project's cost, not to exceed $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements and $500,000 for renewable energy systems. USDA Rural Development has invested $674 million in more than 1,763 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects since 2001. These investments include ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, geothermal, methane gas recovery systems and biomass.

USDA will issue one grant solicitation for two separate competitions in financial year 2008. For the first competitive window, grant-only applications must be submitted no later than April 15. For the second competitive window, grant-only applications must be submitted no earlier than April 16 and no later than June 16.

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