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Austin, TX - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $300 million to help hundreds of small businesses across the country save money on their energy costs by adopting renewable sources or implementing more efficient energy options. Vilsack made the announcement at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX during a meeting with several local business owners who will make use of these loans and grants.

"Cutting our energy waste is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to help families save money on their energy bills while reducing harmful carbon pollution. Over the course of nearly eight years, the Obama Administration has taken strong actions to advance energy efficiency in our homes and businesses," Vilsack said. "Through efficiency upgrades and private-sector partnerships, America has been able to cut its carbon emissions, create jobs and save families hundreds of dollars at the pump and on their utility bills every year. The Rural Energy for America Program alone has helped roughly 15,000 rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions. When businesses lower their energy costs, they are also able to expand their services and contribute to stronger local economies."

Nationwide, USDA is investing $237 million to support 423 businesses through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Recipients will use the loans and grants to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funds also may be used to make energy efficiency improvements to their heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; or lighting and refrigeration units.

USDA is investing over $3.7 million for energy projects in Wisconsin. Two Wisconsin businesses will receive $518,000 in REAP grants while one business will receive a loan of $3.19 million. Those receiving loans are: Badger State Ethanol ($492,327) to purchase and install the equipment for the retrofitting of an ethanol facility and Steven G. Krenze ($25,673) to make energy efficiency improvements to the HVAC system and insulation. Skana Aluminum Company will use it's $3.19 million loan to make energy efficiency improvements to the melting furnace.

From 2009 to date, REAP has helped finance more than 11,600 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that have reduced energy costs for roughly 15,000 rural businesses. USDA has provided more than $380 million in grants and almost $688 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners since the start of the Obama Administration.

When operational, these projects will generate or save almost 9 million megawatt hours – enough to power more than 750,000 homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5 million metric tons in carbon dioxide each year. That is the equivalent of removing 1.5 million cars from our roads.

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