Rural Resilience

Minnesota’s Clean Energy Leap: REAP Fuels Rural Shift to Wind and Solar Power

This year, Minnesota enacted a law requiring a transition to 100% carbon-neutral energy by 2040, signaling significant changes in energy production, sale, and distribution. Many are aware of the clean energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, such as the 30% tax credit for installing wind turbines or battery storage.

Rural areas play an essential role in shaping the future of clean energy in America, especially in Minnesota. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) supports small towns, farms, and ranches in their efforts to embrace renewable energy by installing solar panels and wind turbines, upgrading buildings, and introducing energy-efficient equipment. 

Initiated in 2003 as part of the Farm Bill’s Energy Title program, farmers and rural business owners have significantly cut energy waste and utilized renewable sources like wind and sun, in addition to traditional farming. The popularity of this program has consistently seen demand exceed available resources every year.

One testimonial from wind technician, Christopher Thomas, who creates repair guides for turbines and other equipment in southern Minnesota. In 2019, Thomas received a $16,000 grant from the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to set up a 120kW wind turbine on his property. This installation not only covers his electricity expenses but also boosts his annual income by approximately $8,000-$10,000.

“What I do for a living is what I love to do. And then as energy costs went up, obviously it became more of a need to generate revenue,” Thomas said to the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Thomas also states how the REAP grant helped him and his business a lot. “I was tenacious about making sure I had everything done,” he says to ELPC. “As someone who had never applied for a grant before, it wasn’t too onerous. I was able to navigate it.”

Thomas suggests that improved net metering rates or increased funding from initiatives such as REAP could enhance the economic feasibility of wind energy for a broader audience. He also boasts about the significant quantity of CO2 emissions he has prevented from entering the atmosphere, emphasizing the abundance of wind resources available for utilization.