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Clean Energy for Rural America (2022)

Join us to learn more about some of the benefits of clean energy for rural communities, small businesses, and farmers. Kim Knowles with Prairie Rivers Network will share information about state and federal incentives that make solar more accessible and affordable. Callie Heidbreder with USDA Rural Development will share information about the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant program. REAP provides grant funding and guaranteed loans for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements for small rural businesses and agricultural producers. We’ll also hear a REAP solar success story from Tasha Dunaway, co-owner of Bespoke Gift Company.


  • Welcome/Introduction: Lisa or Nancy
  • Facilitator:
  • Q&A facilitators:

Presenter/Panelist Bios:

  • Kim Knowles, Policy Specialist, Prairie Rivers Network
  • Callie Heidbreder, Rural Energy Coordinator, Rural Development, USDA
  • Tasha Dunaway, Owner, Bespoke Gift Company

Proposed Agenda:

  1. Welcome/Introduction 5 min, Extension (Lisa or Nancy)
  2. Background - Benefits of Clean Energy to Rural Communities (Amanda, PRN) 5 min
  3. Solar Incentive Overview (state RECs/federal tax credits) (Kim Knowles, PRN) 15 min
  4. REAP grant program (Callie H. with Rural Development) 20 min
  5. REAP grant success story, Tasha with Bespoke Gift Company, 5-10 min
  6. Q&A

Presenter Bios:

  • Kim Knowles is a policy specialist at Prairie Rivers Network where she leads the organization’s efforts to craft and implement just and equitable renewable energy policies. Equitable renewable energy policies are designed to ensure the benefits of clean energy are realized by a broader spectrum of people, including communities of color, low income and environmental justice communities, and rural towns and villages. Kim is presently leading a project called Win-the-Win on Clean Energy, ensuring rural Illinois understands and captures the benefits of federal energy legislation.
  • Tasha Dunaway is Co-owner of Bespoke Gift Company, a custom gift shop on the historic courthouse square in Monticello, Illinois. Bespoke Gift Company opened as a retail location in the Fall 2019 after winning the Monticello Bootcamp Grant. During the pandemic when so many businesses were looking for ways to reduce operational expenses, Tasha and co-owner Jeff decided to transition their business to solar energy. Bespoke Gift Company received a USDA REAP Grant that contributed to their transition to solar energy, and the owners are passionate advocates of renewable energy for business owners.
  • Callie Heidbreder is a Business Programs Specialist with USDA Rural Development. The Rural Development agency is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. Callie currently serves as the Energy Coordinator for Illinois, working with agricultural producers and rural small businesses to provide grant funding and guaranteed loans in order to promote renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.


Planning Notes: