USDA is investing $1.6 billion to build or improve rural electric infrastructure in 21 states.
“Reliable and modern 21st century infrastructure, including electric infrastructure and smart grid technologies, is a cornerstone for prosperity in rural America,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
USDA is providing loans and loan guarantees to rural electric cooperatives and utilities through the Electric Loan Program. The recipients will use the funds to build and improve 9,138 miles of electric transmission and distribution line, benefiting 1 million rural residents and businesses. The loans include nearly $386 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.
The investments are being made in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
Among the projects:
- Seminole Electric Corporation in Florida is receiving a $727 million loan to finance a new natural gas fired, combined-cycle generation facility. The cooperative provides wholesale electric service to nine electric distribution cooperative members, serving 1.8 million people and businesses in parts of 42 Florida counties.
- Dixie Electric Membership Cooperative in Louisiana is receiving a $126 million loan to build and improve 640 miles of line and connect 11,368 consumers.
- Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation is receiving a $75 million loan to install 2,073 miles of fiber-optic cable to provide a backbone communications network for Smart Grid purposes. Arkansas Electric is a generation and transmission cooperative that provides wholesale electric service to 17 electric distribution cooperatives serving members in 74 Arkansas counties.
- The Cumberland EMC is receiving a $93 million loan to connect 9,676 consumers and build 160 miles of line. The cooperative serves consumers in Tennessee and Kentucky.