North Dakota’s Slope Electric Cooperative Inc. is one of 12 loans to be awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for investment in rural electric infrastructure, according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
“Investing in our nation’s electric infrastructure is fundamental for rural economic growth,” Perdue said. “USDA’s longstanding partnerships with rural electric cooperatives help ensure that rural areas have affordable, reliable electric service. These investments also increase efficiency and productivity for businesses and residents and support the quality of life in rural America.”
USDA’s $276 million investment will build nearly 1,000 miles of line and improve 733 miles of line to meet current and future needs of rural businesses and residents. It will also support $65 million in smart grid technologies to help rural electric utilities reduce outages and integrate new systems.
Smart grid includes technological enhancements, such as metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications and geospatial information systems.
Investments are being made in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia. The loan guarantees are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, which is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration.
“By investing in projects like this, people living in rural areas will continue to see improved electric service," said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. "Consumers in the southwest part of the state will benefit from Slope Electric’s smart grid upgrades and the added miles of line affordably financed through the USDA loan program. This administration has listened to concerns of rural communities and working to enhance our infrastructure.”
North Dakota’s Slope Electric Cooperative Inc. will receive a $12.5 million loan to build 84 miles of line and improve 32 miles. Slope will use $400,000 to restore damage from storms in July. Specifically, this loan will help build 84 miles of line, improve 32 miles of line, as well as dedicate $120,000 of the federal loan to smart grid projects. These federal dollars will be invested in the counties of Adams, Bowman, Hettinger and Slope.
“Making investments in rural electric infrastructure will help make sure that rural communities stay connected,” Heitkamp said. “Not only will these funds improve service but they will support jobs as workers build up our electric grid. These federal funds will be used by Slope Electric Cooperative to build and improve the infrastructure that distributes power to our homes, businesses and communities.”
In Virginia, the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative will receive a $52 million loan to build 376 miles of line. Rappahannock serves 165,000 meters in parts of 22 counties.
The Department is awarding a $74 million loan to Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation in Brownstown, Ind. The utility will build 84 miles of line and improve 32 miles to provide reliable, affordable electricity to 20,000 residential and business consumers. The loan includes $59.3 million for smart grid technologies.
Kentucky’s Shelby Energy Cooperative is receiving a $22.3 million loan to build 60 miles of line, improve 52 miles and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $384,199 for smart grid projects. Shelby serves 15,275 residential, 509 commercial and 125 seasonal consumers across 2,128 miles in 10 counties between Louisville and Lexington. Shelby’s service territory is largely rural. Its economy relies on agriculture and a fairly large commercial and industrial load. A shopping mall is expected to be added to the area in the near future.