USDA Funds Electric Upgrades

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA announced on Wednesday the release of nearly $3.6 billion in loans for projects across 31 states to improve the rural electric grid.

The funding will build or improve 12,500 miles of transmission and distribution lines. That includes $216 million for smart grid technologies. Such technology uses remote controls or automation to increase or reduce power loads at certain times or better alert companies to problems in their distribution system.

The largest single loan is to Oglethorpe Power Corporation in Georgia for a $448 million loan for generation improvements for 41 rural electric cooperative utilities across the state. The national Rural Utilities Finance Corp in Virginia received $375 million to provide loan guarantees to rural electric cooperatives. CoBank in Colorado also received $375 million to provide similar loan guarantees for rural electric cooperative infrastructure.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Rural Development loans at an event in Missouri where he cited that the state would receive a total of $108 million for projects to build or improve more than 300 miles of power lines and also invest in smart-grid technology.

"For 80 years, rural electric utilities have provided reliable and affordable electricity to help rural communities increase productivity and build stronger economies," Vilsack said. "These loans will help them continue to do that. The utilities and cooperatives will use some of the money to finance energy efficiency projects, renewable fuel systems and smart grid technologies to increase our energy independence and improve rural electric infrastructure."

About $35 million of the funds also will go for renewable energy, $26 million for environmental improvements, and nearly $1.8 million for energy efficiency.

The full list of cooperatives and companies receiving the loan funding can be found at…