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USDA invests more than $200 million in electric infrastructure

Staff writer |
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Act (REA) and announced funding to build and upgrade rural electric infrastructure in five states.

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"Eighty years ago today, President Roosevelt signed the law which charged USDA to provide electric power to rural America," Vilsack said.

"Today's investments continue a part of USDA's mission that has brought reliable, safe and affordable electric power to America's farms, ranches and rural communities, improved the quality of life for rural residents, increased farm productivity and made America the breadbasket to the world.

"Continuing to invest in rural electric infrastructure will help keep our economy strong."

USDA is providing $202 million in loans for six projects in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. The funding is administered through the Electric Program of USDA's Rural Utilities Service, the successor to the REA.

The Electric Program makes loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities. The loans finance the construction of electric distribution and generation facilities in rural areas.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Inc. has been selected to receive a $131.8 million USDA loan to acquire the Bluegrass Generating Facility, a natural gas-fired power plant. North Carolina's O2 EMC Portfolio 1, LLC is receiving a $4.5 million loan to construct a 3 megawatt solar farm.

In Arizona, the Tohono O'Odham Utility Authority will improve 80 miles of line with a loan of nearly $8 million. The utility will use $775,000 of the loan to invest in smart grid technologies.

Smart grid increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage power distribution and improve operational efficiencies. It includes metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other improvements.

Georgia's Slash Pine Electric Membership Corporation will use a $9 million loan to improve 248 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $1 million for smart grid.

The Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. is receiving a $43.1 million loan to make system improvements to the water reactor at the Wolf Creek Generating Station and a $5.2 million loan to fund improvements to the facility's below-ground water piping.

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