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Power lines at dusk Yelantsevv/ThinkstockPhotos

$2.5 billion invested in rural electric infrastructure

USDA investment funds projects in 27 states.

USDA is investing $2.5 billion in rural electric infrastructure improvements to help create jobs and support economic development in 27 states.

“These significant investments will help develop and maintain modern, reliable electric infrastructure that businesses and rural communities need in a 21st Century economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “The loans I am announcing today will help utilities and cooperatives build new transmission and distribution lines, upgrade networks and facilities, and better manage the power grid.”

The funding will support infrastructure improvements in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The loans are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, which is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration.

“We are extremely pleased that USDA is making such a major investment in rural development and infrastructure through new loans to America’s electric cooperatives,” said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “USDA is an important partner helping us illuminate rural America and empower the communities we serve. That partnership is critical to co-ops’ ability to maintain, expand and improve rural electric infrastructure.”

One of the USDA awards is an $18.3 million loan to the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative (Espanola, N.M.) to build 58 miles, improve 28 miles of line and make other system improvements. Jemez will use $7 million for smart grid improvements.

In Oregon, the Harney Electric Cooperative is receiving an $11.7 million USDA loan to build 53 miles of line and make other system improvements. The Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative in Portola, Calif., will receive a $14.2 million loan to improve 44 miles of transmission and distribution line, build one mile and make other system improvements. 

The Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative in Dade City, Fla., is receiving a $130 million loan to build 297 miles, improve 66 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $1.4 million for smart grid projects.

Smart grid includes technological enhancements such as metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications and geospatial information systems to help utilities increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems. The loans include $127 million for smart grid projects. 

Three North Carolina companies – Gamble Solar, LLC; Wadesboro Solar; and Salisbury Solar – are receiving a total of $14.1 million to build solar photovoltaic energy farms in various parts of the state. 

Source: USDA Rural Development

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