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Co-ops Among the Winners of Rural Electric Infrastructure Funds

Randy Sukow


Lineman working on utility line

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced winners from two electric infrastructure programs for a total of $464 million in funding to rural businesses, agricultural producers and private individuals. The programs encourage the use of renewable energy systems. Rural electric cooperatives are among the recipients for projects ranging from solar installations to extensive fiber optic backbone networks.

“Lowering energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers helps to expand economic development and employment opportunities for people in America’s rural towns and communities,” the agency said in a press release.

Co-ops mostly applied for funding from the Electric Loan Program (ELP), which promotes a wide range of infrastructure, including smart grid and communications technologies. The program’s current round of $335 million in funding will help build or upgrade 1,432 rural line miles nationwide.

Four NRTC members appear on the list of ELP winners.

  • Central Rural Electric Cooperative in Oklahoma is using a $88,769,000 loan to fund various smart grid deployments and a 3,922-mile fiber optic backbone.
  • A $24,575,000 loan to Gascosage Electric Cooperative in Missouri will build or upgrade lines to 768 meters and support new smart grid systems.
  • A $45,000,000 ELP loan to Roughrider Electric Cooperative Inc. in North Dakota will go toward building or improving 291 miles of line and smart grid systems.
  • Petit John Electric Cooperative in Arkansas is using funds from a $39,627,000 loan to fund 122 miles of fiber-optic connections to substations and other smart grid systems.

In addition, NRTC G&T member Wabash Valley Power Association in Indiana is taking part in an ELP-funded project in neighboring Illinois. Prairie State Solar is receiving a $95,207,000 loan to build a 99-megawatt solar farm in Perry County, IL. “Prairie State has a 27-year power purchase agreement with the Wabash Valley Power to sell and deliver the electricity produced,” USDA said.

USDA also announced winners for funding from its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant and loan program, which offers assistance to farms, ranches and rural businesses purchasing and installing technologies that promote energy efficiency.

Grundy County Rural Electric Cooperative in Iowa is receiving a $19,200 REAP grant to purchase and install LED lighting in homes and businesses in its electric service area. USDA estimates the investment will result in savings of 69 percent a year.

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