The USDA Rural Development office has announced $2.5 billion in investments in rural electric infrastructure improvements in 27 states.
“These significant investments will help develop and maintain modern, reliable electric infrastructure that businesses and rural communities need in a 21st Century economy,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “The loans will help utilities and cooperatives build new transmission and distribution lines, upgrade networks and facilities, and better manage the power grid.”
One of the USDA awards is an $18.3 million loan to the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative (Espanola, N.M.) to build 58 miles, improve 28 miles of line and make other system improvements. Jemez will use $7 million for smart grid improvements.
In Oregon, the Harney Electric Cooperative is receiving an $11.7 million USDA loan to build 53 miles of line and make other system improvements. The Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative in Portola, Calif., will receive a $14.2 million loan to improve 44 miles of transmission and distribution line, build one mile and make other system improvements.
The Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative in Dade City, Fla., is receiving a $130 million loan to build 297 miles, improve 66 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $1.4 million for smart grid projects.
Smart grid includes technological enhancements such as metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications and geospatial information systems to help utilities increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems. The loans include $127 million for smart grid projects.
Three North Carolina companies – Gamble Solar, LLC; Wadesboro Solar; and Salisbury Solar – are receiving a total of $14.1 million to build solar photovoltaic energy farms in various parts of the state.
Similarly, Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, has announced that USDA is investing more than $200 million in infrastructure projects to bring broadband to hundreds of unserved and underserved rural communities. Click here for the list of states and communications companies.
“Broadband infrastructure is vital to our economy and quality of life in rural America. Yet, today nearly 40 percent of rural residents and businesses lack access to the same quality service available in urban centers,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is working hard to bridge this gap. From access to health care to workforce training and connection to global markets, broadband is truly a lifeline to prosperity in rural communities.”
These awards are being financed through USDA’s Telecommunications Program, which has provided financial assistance to more than 500 telecommunications providers nationwide. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
image: Oak Ridge Utilities