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USDA Invests US$598 Million to Improve, Modernize Rural Electric Infrastructure

March 31, 2021
Investments to benefit 460,000 rural residents and businesses.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a US$598 million rural electric loan package to build or improve electric infrastructure in 11 states.

"These USDA investments will bring affordable electric power to rural residents, tribal communities, community facilities, schools, and medical institutions that perform critical services each day," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. " Now is the time for our nation to make significant investments in infrastructure — roads, bridges, broadband, and energy — to improve quality of life and support good-paying jobs, transition to a clean energy economy, and keep the United States poised to lead the global economy."

The USDA is investing in 11 projects through the Electric Loan Program. This funding will benefit 460,000 rural residents and businesses in Arizona, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. Several of the loans will help expand smart grid technologies, which can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas.

Below are some examples of how the funds will be used:

  • The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, headquartered in Fort Defiance, Arizona, will use a US$235 million loan to connect 1340 consumers and build and improve 636 miles of line throughout the system on the reservation. This loan will also fund transmission expansions and upgrades and the construction of warehouse and headquarters facilities throughout the reservation. The funding will be used to acquire 5337 consumers and build 144 miles of transmission line and 221 miles of distribution line near Tuba City and on the Hopi Reservation. Also, US$29.4 million of this loan will go to smart grid technologies, including 304 miles of backbone fiber and 27 miles of customer drops.
  • In Maine, ASP2 Rural LLC will use a US$7.7 million loan to develop three solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities. The three projects are: Caribou Solar, a 964.6-kW project in Caribou; Dirt Solar, a 3937-kW project in Skowhegan; and Freeport Solar, a 982.2-kW project in Fairfield.
  • In Missouri, the Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association will use a US$15 million loan to connect 1955 consumers and build and improve 136 miles of line. This loan includes US$432,000 in smart grid technologies. Intercounty serves approximately 30,000 customers through 5700 miles of line in nine counties in the state.

The USDA's Electric Loan Program helps finance wind, solar, and natural gas plants, as well as improvements to produce clean energy from coal-fired plants. Local utilities also use the loans to invest in infrastructure to deliver affordable power to millions of residential, commercial, and agricultural consumers.

Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety, and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal, and high-poverty areas.

To learn more about electric infrastructure and other investment resources for rural areas, contact the USDA Rural Development state office.

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