USDA announces loan guarantees for rural electric grids

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2014 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $1.4 billion in loan guarantees to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities in 21 states.

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The announcement includes $106 million for smart grid technologies and $3 million for renewable energy programs and systems. The funding will help diversify energy portfolios and decrease the country's reliance on carbon-based fuel sources, Vilsack said.

“With the help of investments such as these from USDA, rural electric utilities have delivered reliable and affordable electricity for nearly 80 years,” Vilsack said. “Upgrading the electric grid will bring jobs and increased economic opportunities to rural communities.”

Among today's loan guarantee recipients is Georgia's Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation. It is receiving a $161 million loan guarantee to build or improve more than 800 miles of transmission and distribution line. More than $6 million will fund smart grid projects.

North Carolina's Rockwell Solar LLC is getting a $3 million loan to build a 3.5-megawatt solar farm in Rowan County. The total project cost is just over $10 million. The farm will be developed, owned and operated by O2 Energies, based in Cornelius, N.C. During construction, the farm will provide work for more than 50 people.

The Horry Electric Cooperative in Conway, S.C., has been selected to receive a $52 million loan to build or improve 624 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2.3 million for smart grid projects.

USDA's Rural Utilities Service provided more than $186 million for smart grid technologies in fiscal year 2014, which ended Sept. 30. Smart grid helps rural electric utilities manage power use more effectively.

USDA has worked with rural electric cooperatives since 1935 to provide electricity for rural consumers. The Rural Utilities Service also administers infrastructure programs that bring broadband, safe drinking water and improved wastewater treatment facilities to rural communities.

USDA has invested nearly $2.5 billion in electric infrastructure improvements in FY 2014 and almost $31 billion since 2009. In FY 2014 alone, USDA loan guarantees have helped build or improve 19,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines.

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