Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $345.5 million in 20 infrastructure projects to improve rural electric service in 14 states.
“Delivering reliable and affordable electricity to power rural America will help lay the groundwork for increased rural prosperity and economic opportunity,” Perdue said. “USDA is partnering with rural electric utilities and cooperatives so they can continue to invest in infrastructure improvements to provide electric power to those who live and work in rural areas.”
USDA is making the investments through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program. This program helps finance generation, transmission and distribution projects; system improvements; and energy conservation projects in communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
The loans include $7.9 million for smart grid technology. This includes computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems.
The USDA loan program is also funding:
- The San Isabel Electric Association (Colorado), which will receive a $15.8 million loan to build 63 miles of line and improve 143 miles to serve consumers in Huerfano, Las Animas, Pueblo, Custer, Otero and Costilla counties. The loan includes $752,021 for smart grid projects.
- Minnesota’s Goodhue County Electric Cooperative Association which will use a $7.75 million loan to construct 28 miles of line and improve 72 miles. The loan includes $315,000 for smart grid projects. Goodhue’s service territory is predominantly agricultural. Most non-farm employment is associated with agricultural and food processing activities.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.
In January 2018, Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
To view the report in its entirety, click here.
This article was originally published on Smart Energy International and was republished with permission.