WASHINGTON - The U.S. Energy and Treasury Departments on Tuesday awarded $550 million in cash grants to develop renewable energy projects to help meet the Obama administration's goal of doubling U.S. renewable energy production over the next few years.

The money comes from the economic stimulus package approved by Congress and will provide direct payments to companies in lieu of tax credits to support solar, wind, biomass and other renewable energy production facilities.

These investments are crucial to ensuring America can compete and win in the race for the clean energy jobs of the future, said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

So far the government has awarded just over $1 billion in clean energy grants. The total is expected to reach at least $3 billion.

Previously, energy companies could file for a tax credit to cover a portion of a renewable energy project's costs. Under the grant program, a company would forgo the tax credit in favor of an immediate reimbursement of 30 percent of the qualifying cost of the project.

Twenty-five projects qualified for awards in this second round. The projects receiving the most money were the Pyron wind farm LLC ($121.9 million) in Rascoe, Texas; the Barton wind farm ($93.4 million) in Kinsett, Iowa; the Bull Creek wind farm LLC ($91.4 million) in O'Donnell, Texas and the Farmers City wind farm ($85 million) in Tarkio, Missouri.

Not only are our recovery dollars meeting an immediate funding need among innovative companies, they are also jump-starting private sector investment in communities across the country -- with benefits for the renewable energy industry and our economy alike, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by David Gregorio)