Co-ops get $3.1B in USDA loans to improve systems

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently approved $3.1 billion in rural infrastructure loans for 45 electric cooperatives — two of which are Great River Energy member-owner cooperatives — that will improve service to more than 1.4 million homes and businesses.

The Rural Utilities Service loans and loan guarantees will go to projects in 25 states to upgrade or build about 3,741 miles of transmission and distribution lines. In addition, co-ops will use loans for smart grid technology and digital communications to help detect and respond to outages.

Recipients of this latest round of USDA loans include large power providers that serve dozens of distribution systems and small co-ops serving sparsely populated swaths of land.

In Minnesota, Brown County Rural Electric Association (BCREA), headquartered in Sleepy Eye, will use its $8 million loan to connect 189 members, and build and improve 54 miles of line. The co-op’s loan also includes $555,900 in smart grid technologies. BCREA serves approximately 4,530 members over 1,515 miles of line in eight south-central Minnesota counties.

Nobles Cooperative Electric will use its $12.5 million investment to connect 201 members, and build and improve 114 miles of line. The co-op’s loan includes about $1.4 million in smart grid technologies as well. Nobles, headquartered in Worthington, Minnesota, serves approximately 6,800 members over 2,273 miles of line in nine Minnesota counties and two Iowa counties.