The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend $78 million to help fund 22 projects across the Carolinas as part of a nationwide push to expand renewable energy and lower energy costs in rural areas.
Eleven projects in each state will get a share of $464 million the United States Department of Agriculture is spending nationwide. Most of the money is in the form of low-cost loans to build solar farms. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters the loans help reduce costs compared to those from commercial banks.
“This essentially creates an opportunity for us to get that kind of renewable energy going more quickly, with a little bit less cost, which obviously keeps the cost down to the consumers,” Vilsack said.
Four solar farms are in North Carolina — two in the congressional district of Rep. Deborah Ross, near Raleigh; one the central North Carolina district of Rep. Richard Hudson; and one in the eastern North Carolina district of Rep. G.K. Butterfield. The South Carolina farm will be south of Columbia.
The majority of the awards are grants for less than $50,000. They’re going to help farmers and rural businesses buy things like solar panels, energy efficient lighting and equipment, and irrigation systems.
The funding announcement came a day after the Biden administration released a plan calling for 45% of U.S. electricity to come from solar power by 2050. It’s aimed at helping the country address climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.
Of these investments, $129 million are 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. These climate-smart investments will conserve and generate more than 379 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in rural America, which equates to enough electricity to power 35,677 homes per year.
USDA is financing $335 million of these investments through the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas. The loans include $102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.
See a full list of the loans and grants at USDA.gov.