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USDA Invests $1.4 Billion to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure



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Funding Includes $110 million for Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Improvements

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $1.4 billion in USDA loan guarantees to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities in 21 states.

"With the help of investments such as these from USDA, rural electric utilities have delivered reliable and affordable electricity for nearly 80 years," Vilsack said. "Upgrading the electric grid will bring jobs and increased economic opportunities to rural communities."

Today's announcement includes $106 million for smart grid technologies and $3 million for renewable energy programs and systems. The funding will help diversify energy portfolios and decrease our nation's reliance on carbon-based fuel sources, Vilsack noted.

Smart grid helps rural electric utilities manage power use more effectively. For fiscal year (FY) 2014, USDA's Rural Utilities Service provided more than $186 million for smart grid technologies.

USDA has worked with rural electric cooperatives since 1935 to provide electricity for rural consumers. Through the years, these investments have delivered new economic and social opportunities and have enhanced the quality of life in the nation's rural communities. The Rural Utilities Service also administers infrastructure programs that bring broadband, safe drinking water and improved wastewater treatment facilities to rural communities.

Among today's loan guarantee recipients is Georgia's Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation. It is receiving a $161 million loan guarantee to build or improve more than 800 miles of transmission and distribution line. More than $6 million will fund smart grid projects.

North Carolina's Rockwell Solar LLC is getting a $3 million loan to build a 3.5-megawatt solar farm in Rowan County. The total project cost is just over $10 million. The farm will be developed, owned and operated by O2 Energies, based in Cornelius, N.C. During construction, the farm will provide work for more than 50 people.

The Horry Electric Cooperative in Conway, S.C., has been selected to receive a $52 million loan to build or improve 624 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2.3 million for smart grid projects.

View the complete list of recipients and projects receiving funding under today's announcement. Each loan is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.

USDA has invested nearly $2.5 billion in electric infrastructure improvements in FY 2014 and almost $31 billion since 2009. In FY 2014 alone, USDA loan guarantees have helped build or improve 19,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines.

President Obama's historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.

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