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Agriculture Today

Betting on rural energy for job growth

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Johnathan Hladik
September 21, 2011 | 2,749 views | Post a comment

Rural communities received welcome news in August with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of a $900 million loan package to help rural electric cooperative utilities upgrade, expand, and replace rural America’s electric infrastructure.

Funding will be divided among utilities in Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. The initiative, managed by the USDA Rural Development program, eclipses the $376 million distributed in April and will benefit more than 19,000 rural consumers.

By providing the capital necessary to build nearly 1,500 miles of new transmission and improve more than 1,700 miles of lines already in existence, this investment will lead to job creation and economic growth by enabling many rural communities to better realize their economic potential. Our most abundant renewable energy resources are found in remote regions that aren’t well-connected to the existing transmission network. Up to 300,000 MW of wind projects, enough to meet 20 percent of our annual, national electricity demand, are tied up in interconnection queues due to inadequate transmission capacity.

In order to utilize the tremendous potential associated with the development of renewable energy, it’s critical that we find a way to connect these projects to the existing grid network. The health of our rural communities depends on our ability to create opportunity. Providing entrepreneurs the tools necessary to develop the resources right in our back yard moves us one step closer to making our clean energy future a reality.

Hladik is with the Center for Rural Affairs, http://www.cfra.org/, established in 1973 as an unaffiliated nonprofit corporation under IRS code 501(c)3. The Center for Rural Affairs was formed by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities, and we work to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.

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