Last week, US Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced $349 million in funding for 15 rural electric infrastructure projects to build or improve more than 1,844 miles of transmission and distribution lines for rural electric cooperatives and utilities across 13 states.
USDA Rural Development's Electric Program, which makes insured loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities, is funding the project.
In his announcement, Vilsack said, “Eighty years ago, USDA took on the challenge of bringing power to rural America and it helped make this the greatest, most productive country on Earth.”
He continued, "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. 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."
Not only are utilities companies and regional associates benefiting from this funding, but the residents and business owners in these surrounding rural areas can as well.
For example, the Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative will receive a $25.5 million loan to build or improve 171 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $2 million for smart grid projects and $222,000 for service to Native Americans.
Smart grid technology increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid to improve operational efficiencies.