Electric cooperatives will be building and upgrading hundreds of miles of power lines to serve thousands of members in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota thanks to $122 million in new loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Modern and reliable electric infrastructure is foundational to building prosperity in rural America,” said Joel Baxley, USDA’s acting assistant to the secretary for rural development, in announcing the loans.
The money, approved Feb. 28 through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan Program, will go to seven co-ops and will help build or improve 964 miles of power lines and benefit more than 6,200 business and residential members.
West River Electric Association in Wall, South Dakota, was awarded the largest loan—$30 million—and will apply the majority of it toward construction of 14 miles of 69-kv transmission line to provide a tie to an existing substation.
The project will deliver power to a planned new substation that will accommodate commercial growth in and around Rapid City and Box Elder, South Dakota, said Dick Johnson, CEO and general manager of the co-op, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.
The loan will also help pay for upgrades at West River Electric’s substation in Wall. One third of the money will cover “day-to-day items that incur with new services, service upgrades, meters, transformers, and equipment replacements,” said Johnson.
“I am thankful we have low-cost RUS funding available to continue to provide low-cost power for our member-owners at the end of the line, just like we have over the last 80 years,” he added.
Steven Seibert, president and CEO of Southern Indiana Power Cooperative, said such RUS loans are a critical means for maintaining systems and providing reliable electricity. The co-op in Tell City, Indiana, will use a $10.5 million loan to build and improve transmission infrastructure that serves 600 rural members and install second-generation advanced metering infrastructure.
“Southern Indiana Power values our relationship with USDA and RUS as they assist our cooperative in providing safe, reliable and affordable energy while improving the lives of our members,” said Seibert.
Also receiving loans were Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative in Mena Arkansas, $20 million; Central Florida Electric Cooperative in Chiefland, Florida, $17 million; Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative in Collinsville, Oklahoma, $20.1 million; Black Hills Electric Cooperative in Custer, South Dakota, $14.8 million; and Bon Homme Yankton Electric Association in Tabor, South Dakota, $9 million.
Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.