USDA is allocating $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure and help rural communities lower energy costs, including a Perry County solar project.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the funding will be spread among 48 states and Puerto Rico.USDA is financing $129 million of these investments through the Rural Energy for America Program, which provides funding to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. The climate-smart investments will conserve and generate more than 379 million kilowatt-hours in rural America, which equates to enough electricity to power 35,677 homes per year.

USDA is financing $335 million of these investments through the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas. The loans include $102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.

In Illinois, Prairie State Solar, LLC will use a $95 million loan to construct a 99-megawatt solar photovoltaic farm on 621 acres in Perry County. Prairie State has a 27-year power purchase agreement with the Wabash Valley Power Association Inc. to sell and deliver the electricity produced.

Wabash is an electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Indianapolis. It provides wholesale power to 23 distribution cooperatives in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri.

“USDA continues to prioritize climate-smart infrastructure to help rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before,” Vilsack said. “We recognize that lowering energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers helps to expand economic development and employment opportunities for people in America’s rural towns and communities.