SAN ANTONIO, Texas—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced over half a billion dollars in funding for electric cooperatives to build new clean energy infrastructure at NRECA PowerXchange.

Four co-op applications were among the first selected to advance in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $1 billion Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program, created under the Inflation Reduction Act, Vilsack said.

  • Trico Electric Cooperative, based in Marana, Arizona, requested $83.5 million to expand its battery energy storage system capacity.

  • La Plata Electric Association, based in Durango, Colorado, requested $13.4 million to develop solar energy for its consumer-members, which include people living on the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribal reservations.

  • Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, based in Lihue, Hawaii, requested $24.4 million to expand its solar energy production.

  • Midwest Electric Cooperative Corp., based in Grant, Nebraska, requested nearly $17 million to finance solar energy resource facilities and energy storage systems.

Vilsack said USDA has also identified seven generation and transmission co-ops so far to proceed with full applications under the $9.7 billion New ERA program. Electric co-op applications totaled more than $47 billion for the program, which was created under the IRA exclusively for co-ops’ clean energy projects.

Vilsack also announced that USDA will invest $2.2 billion in 39 rural renewable energy, smart grid and infrastructure projects in 21 states in the latest round of its Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program. Co-op recipients include:

  • SECO Energy, based in Sumterville, Florida, which will receive $317 million to build and improve more than 1,000 miles of power lines and $5 million to upgrade its smart grid tools and install 38.4 miles of fiber.

  • Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative, based in San Augustine, Texas, which will receive $58.5 million to build and improve 370 miles of power lines, with about $10 million going toward smart grid technologies.

“Rural electric cooperatives are the backbone of America’s power delivery, and the Biden-Harris administration is committed to helping them create a path toward a cleaner, more sustainable future that lowers energy costs and creates jobs and lasting economic prosperity for people everywhere,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said he discovered the significance of electric co-ops 37 years ago when he was mayor of a small Iowa town.

“Rural electric cooperative did more than provide power—they were visionaries, willing to power industry and expand the community,” he told co-op leaders at the annual NRECA gathering. “They understood the power of community. From that point on, I leaned into rural electric cooperatives.”