USDA Awards $309 Million in Loans for Electric Co-op Infrastructure


America’s electric cooperatives are welcoming $309 million in federal loans for infrastructure improvements, new power lines and smart grid technologies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the loans in Iowa’s co-op country.

“Robust, modern infrastructure is a foundation for quality of life and economic opportunity no matter the ZIP code in which you live,” Anne Hazlett, USDA assistant to the secretary for Rural Development, said during a June 7 visit to Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) in Cedar Rapids.

“Under Secretary [Sonny] Perdue’s leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in addressing rural infrastructure needs to support a more prosperous future in rural communities,” she added.

The loans to 16 electric co-ops are being made through USDA’s Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program, which helps finance generation, transmission and distribution projects; system improvements; and energy conservation projects in communities with populations of 10,000 or less.

“CIPCO appreciates the opportunity to partner in the announcement of USDA’s financial support of new smart grid projects within Iowa’s electric cooperative system,” said Bill Cherrier, CEO of the G&T, whose 13 member co-ops serve more than 320,000 members across 58 counties.

“We are pleased that one of our members, Farmers Electric Cooperative from Greenfield, Iowa, is the recipient of funding for a key project to improve service to their consumer-members as part of today’s announcement,” he said.

Farmers Electric Co-op CEO Charlie Dunn said the $1.4 million loan would go toward smart grid projects—specifically meters and meter-reading equipment for the 4,759-member co-op.

“The ability to leverage lower-interest loan funds through USDA for our advanced metering infrastructure project ensured that Farmers Electric could continue to provide our members reliable service at an affordable price,” Dunn said.

The growing 50,000-member Mountain View Electric Association with headquarters in Limon, Colorado, received the largest loan, with $82 million to rebuild and improve 197 miles of distribution line and other system components from substation upgrades to pole and underground replacements.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, based in Buxton, North Carolina, will use a nearly $7.6 million loan to install a 115kV line along the new Bonner Bridge and a station service transformer to change voltage levels.

Check out the full list of the USDA co-op loans announced June 7.

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