Rural Renewable Infrastructure Gets Boost From USDA

USDA Invests US$464 Million In Rural Renewable Energy Infrastructure

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing US$464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure.

“The USDA continues to prioritize climate-smart infrastructure to help rural America build back better, stronger, and more equitably than ever before,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We recognize that lowering energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers helps to expand economic development and employment opportunities for people in America’s rural towns and communities.”

The USDA is financing US$129 million of these investments through the Rural Energy for America Program. This program provides funding to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.

The USDA is financing US$335 million of these investments through the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 1432 miles (2304 km) of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas. The loans include US$102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.

The investments span the United States and Puerto Rico. For example:

  • In North Dakota, Red Trail Energy LLC will use a US$25 million loan to build a carbon-capture processing and storage facility at an ethanol manufacturing facility. The project will provide a 40% to 50% reduction in the carbon intensity score of ethanol the company produces. It will also enable the company to distribute ethanol to low-carbon fuel standard markets.
  • Prairie State Solar LLC will use a US$95 million loan to construct a 99-MW solar photovoltaic farm on 621 acres in Perry County, Illinois, about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of St. Louis. Prairie State has a 27-year power purchase agreement with the Wabash Valley Power Association Inc. to sell and deliver the electricity produced. Wabash is an electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Indianapolis. It provides wholesale power to 23 distribution cooperatives in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri.
  • Gulf Coast Solar LLC in Mississippi will use a US$500,000 grant to make energy efficiency improvements at three wastewater treatment facilities in Hancock County. Funds will help the company design, build, and install fixed-tilt, ground-mount solar photovoltaic equipment through a contract with LightEdison. The equipment will help replace 103% of electricity at the North location, 57% of electricity at the South location, and 107% of electricity at the West location.

A full list of the announced projects can be found here.