NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Earth Day means it’s a good time to look at ways to reduce energy consumption…and costs.

In honor of the season, the USDA is investing nearly $35 million into North Dakota’s countryside.

These investments are being made under the REAP — short for Rural Energy for America Program.

The grants aim to help give more people access to clean energy while reducing their carbon footprint.

“The nice thing about having partnerships with grants is that it makes investments more affordable in the long run,” explained Erin Oban, North Dakota’s state director for USDA’s Rural Development.

Friday, one recipient of the grants, woodworker Jamie Zins, met with representatives from the USDA.

The $10,000 grant Zins received aids in increasing energy output and reducing costs by implementing solar panels around the roof of his home and woodworking business (Jamie Zins Woodworking).

Created with assistance from local solar company Lightspring, the new solar array delivers enough electricity to power two average-sized homes.

“The grant is to help subsidize the cost of the panels,” explained Zins, “and the initial investment that I made. I’m looking for about an 8-10 year payoff, and hopefully, it’ll all pencil out and be a good business decision, and also be a good renewable energy project to help subsidize the electricity that I use.”

Other grants were provided to small businesses in Flasher and Gwinner, as well as to two co-ops that will use the funds to build and improve miles of power line.

The funds have also been allocated to four cities (Richardton, Ellendale, Leeds and Napoleon), and will be used to aid in disaster relief for sewer systems and infrastructure improvements.

The USDA sees this program as just one of a number of things they do to help the community.

“I think there are so many programs available at USDA Rural Development that can help advance the goals of businesses, individuals, homeowners and small communities,” said Oban, ” and that’s really the whole mission.”

It will take some time for the energy alternatives to be fully developed and put into place, but Zins believes that they will be worth the trouble.

If all goes well, those who are given the grants will eventually be able to reap what they sow.