Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Monday that USDA is seeking applications to increase the production and use of renewable energy sources. Funding is available from three USDA Rural Development renewable energy programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

“This funding will create green jobs and help America become more energy self-sufficient,” Vilsack said. “These investments will help spur new technologies that will enable us to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and build a strong renewable energy industry in rural America that will enable our nation to ‘out-innovate’ its competitors.”

USDA is accepting applications for loan guarantees in the Biorefinery Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance Program and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. Details on how to apply are in the March 11 Federal Register.

The Biorefinery Assistance Program provides loan guarantees to develop and construct commercial-scale biorefineries or to retrofit existing facilities using eligible technology for the development of advanced biofuels. USDA is making approximately $463 million available for loan guarantees in fiscal year 2011, which ends Sept. 30. Applications must be received by May 10.

The Repowering Assistance Program is designed to encourage the use of renewable biomass as a replacement fuel source for fossil fuels used to process heat or power in the operation of eligible biorefineries (those in existence when the bill was enacted in 2008). Eligible costs will be only for project-related construction costs for making improvements. Approximately $25 million will be available. The deadline to apply for funding is June 9.

The Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels works to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels by providing payments to eligible producers. USDA may fund up to $85 million under this program. The deadline to apply is May 10. To be eligible for payments, advanced biofuels must be produced from renewable biomass, excluding corn kernel starch, in a biofuel facility located in a state. Advanced biofuels are derived from renewable biomass to include cellulose, sugar and starch, crop residue, vegetative waste material, animal waste, food and yard waste, vegetable oil, animal fat and biogas.