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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the availability of $175 million in loan guarantees and $11.4 million in grants to support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency loan and grant program was established under the 2002 Farm Bill, which provides funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems. According to Jay Fletcher, a representative of USDA, wind farm developers are eligible to receive the grants and loans as well, as long as the project is in a rural area.

Loan guarantees 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. These loans and grants are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 0.97 million metric tons, replace 821 million barrels of foreign oil and generate almost 2 million kWh of electricity per year, the USDA adds.

Applications for grants must be submitted to the appropriate USDA Rural Development state office by May 18. The deadline for submitting loan applications, as well as for loan and grant combinations, is July 2. For more information, visit rurdev.usda.gov.

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