Skip to main content

Grant focuses on helping farmers modernize energy sources in rural South Texas

Posted on

Dr. Hua Li

Dr. Hua Li

KINGSVILLE (December 5, 2023) — More wind turbines and solar panels may soon pop up on South Texas farms and ranches as part of a grant received by Dr. Hua Li, professor and graduate coordinator for industrial engineering in the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He is the principal investigator for a $250,000 grant received from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) entitled Solar and Wind Energy Promotion in South Texas (SWEPT).


“Rural America is home to about 50 million Americans and demonstrates the American ideal of self-reliance and a connection with the land. Farms and small businesses are vital to sustaining rural jobs and economies,” Li said. “The latest Census of Agriculture shows more than 80 percent of U.S. farms are small and more than 50 percent of farms have economic sales lower than $10,000. Over 80 percent of businesses are small businesses and many of them are located in rural communities.


“A single-family farm contributes $720,000 to the local economy or the equivalent of eight $40,000 town jobs. On average, seven farms support one town business,” he said.


“So, small farms and small businesses are the engines of job growth in the United States, Li said.


“However, energy consumption is costly for individual farmers in rural America. Unstable energy prices and electricity disruptions will cause more harm to farmers. Energy saving measures and energy efficiency improvements can assist the profitability of agriculture producers and rural small businesses.


“Farms require energy input in every stage of production, from water pumps for irrigation to maintaining animal housing facilities, while energy savings will be obviously significant to rural small businesses due to the high percentage of commercial and industrial sectors in energy consumption, which numerous research and industrial cases have demonstrated,” Li said.

He added that the main goal of this project is to promote the utilization of solar and wind energy by agricultural producers and small rural businesses in South Texas by providing technical services and support to help them apply for REAP funding.


Li and his team’s job will be to provide a renewable energy assessment, energy efficiency assessment, energy audit, and assistance with the REAP grant/loan application. He said he hopes to provide technical services to 20 to 25 landowners per year of the grant.


The USDA REAP grant will cover up to 50 percent of the total project cost. The project cost includes the capital cost for wind turbines or solar panels and the construction costs. “We are not going to assist in any construction but will help the farmers identify possible construction companies or contractors,” Li said.


In addition to undergraduate and graduate students who will be hired to assist with the program, Li’s team includes:

  • Xiaoyu Liu, associate professor in the civil and architectural engineering department;
  • Hui Shen, associate professor in the civil and architectural engineering department;
  • Francisco Haces-Fernandez, assistant professor in the management, marketing and information systems department of the College of Business Administration; and
  • Yuri Calil, assistant professor and extension specialist in agriculture economics at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Corpus Christi.


Anyone interested in the program may visit the website at


Category: Engineering , General Univ

Photo of Julie Navejar

Media Contact

News Archives