Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $345.5 million in 20 infrastructure projects to improve rural electric service in 14 states.
“Delivering reliable and affordable electricity to power rural America will help lay the groundwork for increased rural prosperity and economic opportunity,” Secretary Perdue said. “USDA is partnering with rural electric utilities and cooperatives so they can continue to invest in infrastructure improvements to provide electric power to those who live and work in rural areas.”
USDA is making the investments through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program. This program helps finance generation, transmission and distribution projects; system improvements; and energy conservation projects in communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
The loans include $7.9 million for smart grid technology. This includes computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems.
Below are a few examples of the projects USDA is funding:
- In Colorado, the San Isabel Electric Association is receiving a $15.8 million loan to build 63 miles of line and improve 143 miles to serve consumers in Huerfano, Las Animas, Pueblo, Custer, Otero and Costilla counties. The loan includes $752,021 for smart grid projects.
- Minnesota’s Goodhue County Electric Cooperative Association will use a $7.75 million loan to construct 28 miles of line and improve 72 miles. The loan includes $315,000 for smart grid projects. Goodhue’s service territory is predominantly agricultural. Most non-farm employment is associated with agricultural and food processing activities.
- In Georgia, Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation will use a $61.2 million loan to build 302 miles of line and improve 110 miles. The loan includes $64,000 for smart grid projects. Agriculture and tourism are the major industries in Amicalola’s service territory.