USDA has pledged $349 million in funding for 15 rural electric infrastructure projects in 13 states to build or improve more than 1,844 miles of transmission and distribution lines.
The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Electric Program, which makes insured loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities. The loans primarily finance the construction of electric distribution facilities in rural areas.
The project is continuing USDA's 80-year commitment of providing power to rural Americans.
"Today we are continuing that commitment by investing in the next generation of power transmission – smart grid technology – to make our electric system more reliable, efficient and effective," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack shared in a press statement.
"Upgrading the electric grid will not only improve reliability and better manage costs, but it will also bring jobs and increased economic opportunities, helping to build a sustainable and dynamic future for rural residents and businesses," he said.
One of the projects will be spearheaded by the Macon Electric Cooperative in Missouri, which has been selected to receive a $15.2 million loan to build or improve 51 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $2 million for smart grid projects.
Other projects are in the states of Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and South Dakota.
The total of $349 million in electric loans also includes a $44 million loan to Eastern Iowa Light & Power Cooperative announced by Vilsack on July 17.
Smart grid increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid to improve operational efficiencies. It includes metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems, and other system improvements.