USDA last week said $1.4 billion in USDA loan guarantees to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities will be awarded in 21 states.
"With the help of investments such as these from USDA, rural electric utilities have delivered reliable and affordable electricity for nearly 80 years," Vilsack said. "Upgrading the electric grid will bring jobs and increased economic opportunities to rural communities."
The announcement includes $106 million for smart grid technologies and $3 million for renewable energy programs and systems. The funding will help diversify energy portfolios, USDA says.
Smart grid helps rural electric utilities manage power use more effectively. For fiscal year 2014, USDA's Rural Utilities Service provided more than $186 million for smart grid technologies.
Among the loan guarantee recipients are projects that will expand transmission and distribution line in Georgia; a $3 million loan to build a 3.5-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina; and a $52 million loan to build or improve 624 miles of line in South Carolina.
View the complete list of recipients and projects receiving funding under the announcement. Each loan is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
USDA has invested nearly $2.5 billion in electric infrastructure improvements in FY 2014 and almost $31 billion since 2009. In FY 2014 alone, USDA loan guarantees have helped build or improve 19,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines.