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USDA announces boost to renewable energy effort

USDA provides loan guarantees to wind-energy projects in the Dakotas. One project will build over 100 wind turbines to produce 151.5 megawatts of electricity.


The USDA has announced the selection of Basin Electric Power Cooperative to receive a loan guarantee to construct over 100 wind turbines to produce 151.5 megawatts of electricity.  When completed the turbines will join the cooperative’s other electric generation projects to meet the needs of 2.8 million customers served by 135 distribution systems in nine states.

The loan guarantee will provide financing for engineering, procurement, construction, and commissioning of the PrairieWinds wind farm energy project in central South Dakota.

"The investment announced today will help us ‘win the future,’” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Capturing and converting wind to electricity will create jobs, reduce our reliance on imported energy, and build a reliable source of renewable energy for generations of rural Americans.”

In 2001, Basin Electric developed its first wind project – two turbines just north of Chamberlain S.D., followed by another two turbines south of Minot, N.D.  Since then Basin Electric has developed more than 450 megawatts of power in the Dakotas, including several projects with NextEra Energy Resources. In 2009, Basin Electric subsidiary PrairieWinds ND 1, Inc., completed the largest wind project in North Dakota. That project has a capacity of 120 megawatts. When the South Dakota project is completed, Basin Electric will have more than 700 megawatts of wind generation in its portfolio.

The South Dakota project is a model of public and private investment partnership. The Wind Partners announced in late September they had raised the $16.8 million required from South Dakota investors for their part of the project, along with 32 separate rural land owners who participated by providing lease easements.

PrairieWinds will construct the turbines for the Wind Partners and operate them. Through PrairieWinds, Basin Electric will purchase the electricity produced. A $204 million loan guarantee will be funded by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service. The loan guarantee is for 60 percent of the total $340 million project costs. Funding is contingent upon meeting the conditions of the guaranteed loan agreement.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of employees located in the nation's capital and state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of nearly $147 billion in loans and loan guarantees.

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