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Seven solar projects in North Carolina received USDA loan guarantees.

North Carolina solar projects are big winners in the U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. In all, the USDA today awarded $43 million worth of loan guarantees to projects scattered across the country. But North Carolina was the big winner, as seven projects here pulled in more than half the total.

"Since 2009, the Rural Energy for America Program has helped roughly 15,000 small businesses and farms save enough energy to power about 730,000 homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than five million metric tons annually," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a press release. "These investments in clean energy are good for the environment, are good for each business's bottom line and they support the broader rural economy by encouraging the production of renewable energy sources."

North Carolina has emerged as the top state east of the Mississippi for solar investment in recent years. The individual loan guarantees range from $2.7 million $5 million.

The USDA's Rural Energy for America Program also includes small grants for companies and farmers to improve energy efficiency. About two-dozen winners of those grants reside here in North Carolina.

According to the USDA, the REAP loan guarantees and grants help thousands of rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers shift away from fossil-based energy by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions. To date, the project has resulted in savings of more than 10.4 billion kWh — enough energy to power more than 959,000 American homes annually.

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