America’s rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 42 million people living and working in rural communities across the country. Co-ops, with support from USDA, have embraced renewable energy production. Today, they deepened that commitment by announcing new solar projects that will generate more than 150 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020.
At an event in California, President Obama was joined by two West Coast industry leaders—Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) based in Portola, California, and Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC), based in the state of Washington—to highlight industry efforts to expand renewable energy production.
USDA has been an advocate and partner in co-ops’ efforts to diversify their portfolios and expand their renewable fuel sources. Since 2009, USDA has funded over $1 billion in renewable energy projects that will generate more than 447 MW – enough energy to power 160,603 American homes annually.
The new projects announced today will expand renewable energy production even further. PSREC is using USDA funds to build one of the new solar projects, and is also working with the Department of Defense on solar projects. OCEC was the first utility in Washington State to bring community solar online.
In addition to renewable fuels, USDA and its rural electric cooperative partners are strong supporters of energy efficiency, often called the “fifth fuel” for its ability to reduce electric use and defer construction of new electric generating facilities.
USDA’s new Energy Efficiency and Loan Conservation Program can fund $250 million in energy efficiency improvements, including installation of renewable energy systems for rural residential and business consumers. Cooperatives are already looking at USDA energy efficiency funds to install ground source heat pumps and solar projects, such as those PSREC and OSEC are building.
USDA’s investments in renewable energy – and the commitment of our rural electric cooperative partners to expanding, growing, and innovating – are yielding results. Increasing capital investment in conservation, efficiency and renewable energy not only helps to build a cleaner and more sustainable domestic energy sector, it also creates jobs and economic opportunity—a win, win for every American.