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USDA plans $2.5bn investment to improve rural electric infrastructure

EBR Staff Writer Published 03 November 2017

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to invest $2.5bn to improve rural electric infrastructure to help create jobs and spur business development.

Planned to be funded through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, the new investment is expected to help develop and maintain modern, reliable electric infrastructure in 27 states. It includes $127m for smart grid projects.

USDA said that the funds will support infrastructure improvements in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said: “The loans I am announcing today will help utilities and cooperatives build new transmission and distribution lines, upgrade networks and facilities, and better manage the power grid.”

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson: “USDA is an important partner helping us illuminate rural America and empower the communities we serve. That partnership is critical to co-ops’ ability to maintain, expand and improve rural electric infrastructure.”

As part of the this effort, the USDA has granted $18.3m loan to the Jemez Mountains Electric to build 58 miles, improve 28 miles of line and make other system improvements.

Harney Electric will receive $11.7m fund from the USDA to build 53 miles of line and make other system improvements, while Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric will receive $14.2m loan to improve transmission and distribution line, build one mile and make other system improvements.

Additionally, $130m will be granted to Withlacoochee River Electric to build 297 miles, improve 66 miles of line and make other system improvements.

Gamble Solar, Wadesboro Solar and Salisbury Solar will also secure a total of $14.1m to build solar photovoltaic energy farms.