The southeast Kansas service area of Heartland REC covers 12 counties stretching over 3,500 square miles. So when line crews make calls, they’re in for a long drive.
To minimize on-site repairs, the poles need to be in good shape “to withstand all that weather we get in southeast Kansas…the blizzards, the winds, the tornadoes,” said Ron Graber, director of member service and communication at the Girard, Kansas, co-op.
Heartland REC has one of 12 projects receiving $181 million in loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve service to members. The co-op’s $13.6 million loan will help it improve 3,800 miles of line and upgrade its smart metering system for faster outage detection.
Altogether, the USDA investments will benefit 11 co-ops and a solar farm in Wisconsin that serve a total of 214,000 rural residents and businesses in 10 states.
“For more than eight decades, USDA has been a strong partner to rural communities in building and expanding electric infrastructure,” Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe said Aug. 9.
USDA will make additional funding announcements in coming weeks. In fiscal year 2019, Congress appropriated $5.5 billion for USDA’s Electric Loan Program administered by RUS.
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.