FAQ: I've heard USDA has a handy-dandy website where I can get information on farm energy use, renewable energy, solar energy, etc. Tell me what that site has to offer.
Answer: "We are glad to do that," says Harry Baumes, Ph.D., Director of the USDA Office of Energy Policy and New Uses. He provides the following insight and explanation.
A year ago USDA launched its brand new Energy Web site. The site contains agricultural, economic and social data on renewable energy to assist stakeholders, public users, state and local government in identifying opportunities, activities and USDA's projects in renewable energy. The Energy Web information is available through several associated online tools, such as USDA Energy Investment Maps, the Renewable Energy Tool, Energy Matrix, Investment Projects Reports, as well as helpful state links to energy resources within individual states.
Recently, the agency launched an updated version of the Energy Web site. Thanks to suggestions from users this version 2.0 site provides new resources, new reporting features and the investment data is more current. "We appreciate your ongoing comments and suggestions and we look forward to your continuous support to make this website your website for all kinds of USDA renewable energy information," says Baumes.
Some of the enhanced features of USDA's Energy Website include:
* Energy Investment Maps: The Energy Investments Map contains information regarding programs that provide assistance to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The maps display investment location, type of energy investment, amount of assistance provided and the administering USDA program. The energy investment data is summarized by state, county and congressional districts to display total number of investments and total dollar amounts obligated by the agency.
Recent enhancements are: investment data has been updated to include fiscal year 2012 data, the map legend and data layer, previously designed to toggle between two screens, were combined for easier operation and fast results. The map description has placed in a separate pop-up window "About this Map" to visually enhance the Energy Investment map and also supports efficiency.
* Energy Investment Report: The Energy Investment Report (formerly named USDA Special Projects Report) is a page that in the past provided information on three special initiatives: investments in anaerobic digesters; flexible fuel pumps; and wood to energy projects.
Recent enhancements are: the new Investment Projects Report page enables user access to all energy technologies data that are associated with the Energy Investment Map. The data can be sorted by program, year of obligation, payment type, total dollar amounts and state/county/district, providing various project details. There are pie charts, graphs and report listing to emphasize investment data. Another new feature is the ability to print screen reports and the data can also be exported in various formats.
* Renewable Energy Tool: The Renewable Energy Tool is useful to assist stakeholders in identifying "renewable energy opportunities" by providing access to agricultural, economic, social and technical data and information resources that are relevant to the evaluation of potential opportunities.
Recent enhancements include: adding easy access links to a number of tools available across USDA agencies with information "pop-ups" describing tool. In 2013 enhancements will be added for the mapping feature of the Renewable Energy Tool to include types of data and information that is available but not be limited to: land use for producing biomass and energy crops, cost to produce crops alternative crops, competition for biomass, fuel stations, state and federal policy, USDA guidelines for and financial assistance, and state and federal office locations for agriculture, energy, environmental protection, and conservation. Initially the focus is transportation fuels.
The USDA Energy Web is a work in progress. "We encourage feedback as we are planning additional enhancements this year to include access to more data, success stories, additional functionality, and more tools," says Baumes. "Your comments and suggestions are welcome. To contact our office, click here."
To learn more about USDA's position on energy watch a video with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack on Renewable Energy.