USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday announced funding for six rural electric infrastructure projects, including three in North Carolina that will use solar energy to generate electricity for rural communities.
“These solar projects represent an ongoing commitment from rural electric cooperatives to increase the diversity of their fuel sources with a focus on renewable energy,” Vilsack said. “For nearly 80 years, USDA’s Electric Program has financed safe, reliable and affordable electricity to help strengthen rural economies, and we will continue to do so for years to come.”
Secretary Vilsack announced $72 million in electric infrastructure investments today. This includes a $20 million loan to help Montgomery Solar Owner, LLC in Cornelius, N.C., build a 20 megawatt solar farm. Since 2009, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service has provided $1.1 billion for 18 renewable projects. These projects include biomass and wind as well as solar. “As part of the Obama Administration’s all of-the-above energy strategy, renewable energy generation, like the projects we are announcing today, will have lasting benefits for our energy future,” Vilsack continued. “The importance of these investments should be lost on no one, especially as we celebrate Earth Day this week.”
Vilsack also announced today that Chocowinity Solar, LLC and Cirrus Solar, LLC (both are based in Cornelius, N.C.) are each receiving $5 million loans to build 5 megawatt solar farms. Combined, the Chocowinity, Cirrus and Montgomery solar projects will generate 30 megawatts of power.
Today’s announcement includes a $17 million loan to Rolling Hills Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Kansas to build or improve 197 miles of transmission and distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $315,000 for smart grid projects.
Broad River Electric Cooperative, which serves rural customers in North and South Carolina, will receive an $18 million loan to build or improve 138 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $347,360 for smart grid projects.
In Vermont, the Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc. has been selected to receive a $7 million loan to build or improve 46 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $185,330 for smart grid projects.
USDA has been committed to production and transmission of electricity for rural America since the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935. In 2014 alone, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service awarded $2.4 billion in electric loans. These loans helped 4.6 million rural residents receive improved electric service.
The USDA announcement coincides with the Obama Administration’s first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), which was released today. The review is a multiyear roadmap for U.S. energy policy. This report presents a set of findings and recommendations focused on the Federal role, and organized around the high-level goals of energy security, economic competitiveness, and environmental responsibility. Please view the Quadrennial Energy Review for more information on the White House announcement. The QER focuses on energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D) infrastructure — the networks of pipelines, wires, storage, waterways, railroads, and other facilities that form the backbone of our energy system. The QER identifies opportunities these systems provide for a clean and secure energy future, as well as some growing and potential vulnerabilities of these systems. The report also proposes policy recommendations and investments to replace, protect, expand, and modernize TS&D infrastructure where appropriate.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.