Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that 10 rural electric cooperatives and utilities have been awarded funding to build or expand transmission and distribution lines and provide smart grid technology to benefit nearly 20,000 rural consumers, according to a press release from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"This funding will lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth by out-building and out-innovating our competition to build a more robust rural economy," Vilsack said. "The investments rural electric cooperatives make in infrastructure and smart grid technology highlight the importance of innovation in ensuring a constant and affordable supply of electricity."
Secretary Vilsack is announcing loans totaling $376 million, including nearly $14 million in smart grid technology. The funds are being awarded through USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service to assist electric utilities with upgrades, expansion, maintenance and replacement of rural America's electric infrastructure. Smart grid technology, such as advanced metering, can provide data to consumers and utilities to better manage power use and costs. USDA Rural Development also helps fund energy conservation and renewable energy projects.
Navopache Electric Cooperative, which serves Arizona and New Mexico, has been awarded a $49.3 loan million to build 93 miles of new distribution line, make improvements to 36 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. Nearly $6 million will fund investments in automated metering infrastructure, a smart grid technology.
Georgia Transmission Corporation has been awarded a $75.3 million loan to fund transmission system projects, including 21 miles of new transmission line, three new substations, and upgrades to existing substations to increase system capacity and improve reliability. This system provides transmission service to most of Georgia's rural electric cooperative utilities.