US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that agency is investing $263.3 million, much of it on smart grid projects to help modernize and improve the reliability of rural electric systems located in eight states. The USDA has a long history, dating back to the days following the Great Depression, of working with rural utilities to help bring needed infrastructure and service improvements.
Vilsack explains, “America’s infrastructure must be modernized if we are to continue to create jobs, expand opportunity, and be competitive in the global economy. Modernizing our nation’s rural electric infrastructure will help better support economic development in rural areas while helping to ensure reliable and affordable electric service for people who live and work in small communities across the country.”
The USDA’s investment includes nearly $20 million for smart grid improvements designed to increase the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid, such improved operational efficiencies during peak demand.
According to the USDA, “A modern, reliable electric system is critical to attract and retain residents and businesses to rural communities. Through the years, these investments have brought new economic and social opportunities and have enhanced the quality of life in the nation’s rural communities.”
The USDA also recently announced a $1.25 million investment for nine wood energy projects. Secretary Vilsack adds: “Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. Working with our partners, the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies, and create new rural jobs.”
The states receiving funding include California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.