USDA provides over $200 million for rural electric infrastructure

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, May 26, 2016 - Eighty years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act (REA) which charged USDA to provide electric power to rural America. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack used the anniversary to announce even more investments in the program.

"Today's investments continue a part of USDA's mission that has brought reliable, safe and affordable electric power to America's farms, ranches and rural communities, improved the quality of life for rural residents, increased farm productivity and made America the breadbasket to the world,” Vilsack noted.

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USDA is providing $202 million in loans for six projects in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. The funding is administered through the Electric Program of USDA's Rural Utilities Service, the successor to the REA. Here's a list of the projects:

  • East Kentucky Power Cooperative Inc. was selected to receive a $131.8 million USDA loan to acquire the Bluegrass Generating Facility, a natural gas-fired power plant.
  • North Carolina's O2 EMC Portfolio 1 is receiving a $4.5 million loan to construct a 3 megawatt solar farm.
  • In Arizona, the Tohono O'Odham Utility Authority will improve 80 miles of line with a loan of nearly $8 million. The utility will use $775,000 of the loan to invest in smart grid technologies. Smart grid increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage power distribution and improve operational efficiencies. It includes metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other improvements.
  • Georgia's Slash Pine Electric Membership Corporation will use a $9 million loan to improve 248 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $1 million for smart grid.
  • The Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. is receiving a $43.1 million loan to make system improvements to the water reactor at the Wolf Creek Generating Station and a $5.2 million loan to fund improvements to the facility's below-ground water piping.

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