The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved $3.1 billion in rural infrastructure loans for 45 electric cooperatives that will improve service to more than 1.4 million homes and businesses.
USDA announced its latest round of Electric Loan Program awards on Oct. 22. The Rural Utilities Service loans and loan guarantees will go to projects in 25 states to upgrade or build about 3,741 miles of transmission and distribution lines, the agency said. In addition, $158 million in loans will go toward smart grid technology and digital communications to help detect and respond to outages.
“Working and accessible rural electric infrastructure is a cornerstone to prosperity in America’s heartland,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, adding that the funding “ensures this major infrastructure network remains reliable for the millions of Americans who depend on it every day.”
Recipients of this latest round of USDA loans include large power providers that serve dozens of distribution systems and small co-ops serving sparsely populated swaths of land.
In Colorado, K.C. Electric Association, headquartered in Hugo, serves about 6,500 members over 3,072 miles—a line density of 2.7 members per mile. About $1 million of its total $9.2 million loan will go toward smart grid technologies, specifically installation of a new supervisory control and data acquisition system.
The loan also will “rebuild aging lines to make our system more reliable, real-time and efficient,” said David Churchwell, the co-op’s general manager.
Other loans include a $14.5 million loan to Butler County REC in Allison, Iowa, to build and improve 208 miles of line and a $24 million loan to Central Power Electric Cooperative in Minot, North Dakota, to finance transmission system improvements.
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.