North Carolina’s solar and renewable power industry is getting a big boost from the federal government. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discloses support for 39 projects in the state worth more than $55 million during a visit to Bunn today.

Meanwhile, President Obama in Washington is unveiling plans to train 50,000 vets for solar jobs.

Vilsack visited Progress Solar in Bunn for the announcement. The company utilized a $3.4 million federal loan guarantee to build a solar farm that provides enough power for 600 homes, according to the Agriculture Department.

“The fact you’ve become such an expert in solar power, it lends itself to attracting more opportunities,” Vilsack said of the Tar Heel State.

The USDA is providing a mixture of loan guarantees and grants for solar, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

Some of the new projects include:

  • A $3 million loan guarantee to Broadway Solar Center to help finance a 5 megawatt solar array in Columbus County
  • A $4.9 million loan guarantee for a similar project in Hertford County
  • A $2.1 million guarantee for a project in Warren County.

The funding comes through the USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

“These loan guarantees and grants will have far-reaching impacts nationwide, particularly in the rural communities where these projects are located,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue the unprecedented increase in home-grown energy sources and American energy independence we’ve seen in recent years. This is creating jobs, providing new economic opportunities and leading the way to a more secure energy future.”

The investment in solar power generates thousands of jobs.

There are construction opportunities for those who will build the solar farm and its parts. The racking system is manufactured in Shelby., back sheets are manufactured by DuPont in Fayetteville.

And then of course the property must be maintained.

“My job is to keep the grass cut,” said Chad Ray, of Sun Raised Farms. “How I do that is with sheep.”

Ray has developed a relationship between local family farmers and a growing number of solar farms across the state.

“It’s a win for the solar farms, it’s a win for the community, it’s a win for the farmer, it’s a win for North Carolina,” Ray said.

The news is the second major boost for N.C.’s renewable energy sector in just days. Duke Energy just earlier this week committed $500 million to expand the use of solar power in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Obama Administration disclosed the plan to train veterans early Thursday.

The U.S. will train at least 50,000 veterans to become solar panel installers in the next six years.

The jobs training program is among a host of initiatives the White House says will cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300 million tons through 2030, plus save billions of dollars on energy bills for homeowners and businesses. It will launch this fall at one or more military bases.

The proposals are modest compared with what Obama has asked Congress to do through legislation to promote clean energy, invest in infrastructure projects and force reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. But with lawmakers unwilling to consider any major climate legislation, Obama has sought to maximize what presidential authority he does hold.

Next week, Obama will attend a one-day United Nations summit on climate change in which heads of state are expected to show up with commitments to curbing emissions at home.

The full list of projects is available online.