Area electric co-ops get $30 million in loans

By Terry Davis

Two rural electric cooperatives are among 16 in Minnesota that will get a share of $222 million in loans from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Colleen Landkamer, the USDA’s rural development director for Minnesota, said McLeod Co-operative Power Association has been awarded a loan of $20.95 million, while Meeker Co-operative Light and Power will receive $9 million. The money is to build and improve rural electric infrastructure.

“These investments will help Minnesota’s rural electric utility companies continue to provide reliable and affordable electricity to rural customers,” Landkamer said. “Through these improvements, USDA helps increase efficiencies and improves the quality of life and economic sustainability of rural communities for years to come.”

The USDA funding from its Electric Program includes more than $48 million for smart grid technology and $6.4 million for storm damage repairs. These loans will help build or improve 3,303 miles of transmission and distribution lines.

McLeod Co-op’s share of the loans includes $2.04 million for smart grid technology on its 169 miles of line. Meeker Co-op is to get $2.12 million for that purpose on 64 miles of line.

Smart grid increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid to improve operational efficiencies.

Nationwide, USDA is awarding loans totaling more than $2.2 billion to 77 utilities and cooperatives in 31 states, including more than $108 million for smart grid technology, $41 million for renewable energy improvements and $9 million for storm damage repairs.

Since 2009, USDA has funded $34 billion in electric loans nationwide — $767.5 million in Minnesota alone — and more than $1 billion for smart grid technologies. It has helped build more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving approximately 8.5 million rural customers.

USDA has been committed to improving the production and transmission of electricity in rural communities since the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935.

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