Joel Baxley, acting assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development announced in a release last week that USDA will invest $122 million to expand and upgrade rural electric systems in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota. USDA will direct $7 million toward financing smart grid technologies to enhance and improve system operations and monitor grid security. Smart grid technology increases the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems which includes two-way machine-to-machine communications, computer applications, and geospatial information systems. USDA is investing in seven projects through funds from the Electric Loan Program, with the loans looking to help build or improve 964 miles of line to benefit more than 6,200 business and residential customers. For example, South Dakota’s West River Electric Association, which serves 16,920 residential and commercial consumers, is receiving a $30 million loan to build or improve 163 miles of line, serve 1,049 new customers and finance $2.4 million in smart grid technologies. Southern Indiana Rural Electric Cooperative Inc. will also receive a loan of $10.5 million loan to build or improve 92 miles of line to enhance system operations for 600 rural consumers, which includes more than $1.5 million for smart grid technologies.

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