USDA launches renewable energy data website

By Kris Bevill | January 19, 2012

The USDA has launched a new energy website at  dedicated to providing information and statistics related to the agency’s energy efficiency and renewable energy data. Included in the site’s offerings are three new instruments—the USDA Renewable Energy Investment Map, the Renewable Energy Tool and an Energy Matrix—designed to allow users to view USDA energy investments, analyze biofuels and bioenergy data and to provide interested parties with information related to the USDA’s various energy programs.

“Improving and modernizing access to USDA energy data and resources is essential in today’s highly competitive rural business environment,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Farmers, ranchers and small businesses across the country will benefit from easier navigation and retrieval of energy and renewable energy investments data and funding opportunities.”

Renewable energy project developers may also find the site beneficial. The Renewable Energy Tool will focus initially on transportation fuels and will provide information related to the entire supply chain of renewable production, including land use for producing energy crops, cost of crop production, competition for biomass, blending terminals and fuel stations, according to the USDA. The tool will also provide information on USDA financial assistance opportunities and state and federal policies related to renewable energy. The site continues to be developed, however, and not all of the data is currently available on the website. Additional information offered on the site includes a breakdown of the USDA’s investments in anaerobic digesters, flex-fuel pumps and wood-to-energy projects.

The Ag Energy Coalition, comprised of various renewable energy and agriculture groups focused on securing continued energy program funding in the 2012 Farm Bill, commended the USDA for its effort to provide clear data demonstrating the impact of its energy programs. “The USDA’s energy portal demonstrates the positive impact the Farm Bill energy title and related programs are having on job creation, national security and the environment,” Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the coalition, said. “Every state has benefitted from USDA renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The Ag Energy Coalition believes rural America will be a continuing force for change in the advancement of sustainable energy and renewable chemicals production in the years ahead. With the right policies in place, and requisite funding, the promise of a rural renaissance focused on clean energy solutions will become a reality.”