They’re not accepting applications yet, but the Departments of the Treasury and Energy announced an estimated $3 billion for the development of renewable energy projects around the country, and made available the guidance businesses will need to submit a successful application.

Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the program will provide direct payments. Previously, companies could file for a tax credit to cover a portion of the renewable energy project’s cost; under the new program, applicants would agree to forgo tax credits down the line in favor of an immediate reimbursement of a portion of the property expense. The logic behind this seems to be that this new payment method will provide a faster stimulus in local economies.

In a statement, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “These payments will help spur major private sector investments in clean energy and create new jobs for America’s workers. It is part of our broad effort to double our renewable energy capacity in the next few years and make sure that America leads the world in create the new clean energy economy of the future.”

In previous years, the tax credit has been widely used. Initially, it was a successful method for giving an incentive for developing renewable energy projects. In 2006, approximately $550 million in tax credits were provided to 450 businesses, but the rate of new renewable energy installations has fallen since the economic and financial downturns began, as projects had a harder time obtaining financing. Treasury and DOE expect a fast acceleration of businesses applying for the energy funds in lieu of the tax credit.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said, “It will provide additional stimulus to economies in urban and rural America by helping to develop domestic sources of clean energy.”

Here’s a link for guidance in filing applications, etc.