$17M of USDA funding to help improve electric grid security, reliability in SE Minnesota

(ABC 6 News) – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they are investing $2.7 billion to help 64 electric cooperatives and utilities, including one cooperative in southeast Minnesota, improve electric grid security and reliability.

The USDA is investing in 64 projects through the Electric Loan Program across 26 states including Minnesota and Iowa that will benefit nearly 2 million rural people and businesses.

The loans include $613 million to help rural utilities and cooperatives install and upgrade smart grid technologies. Smart grid can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas in addition to improving grid security and reliability.

Freeborn-Mower Electric Cooperative in Albert Lea will receive $17 million to help connect 450 consumers and build and improve 185 miles of line. The loan includes $2,284,785 in smart grid technologies. Freeborn-Mower Electric serves an average of 20,871 consumers over 2,961 miles of line in six counties in southeastern Minnesota and one county in north central Iowa.

USDA Secretary and former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack said, “this funding will help rural cooperatives and utilities invest in changes that make our energy more efficient, more reliable, and more affordable. Investing in infrastructure – roads, bridges, broadband and energy – supports good-paying jobs and keeps the United States poised to lead the global economy.”

USDA’s Electric Loan Program can help finance wind, solar and natural gas plants, as well as improvements to produce cleaner energy from coal-fired plants. Local utilities also use the loans to invest in infrastructure to deliver affordable power to millions of residential, commercial and agricultural consumers.

In the coming months, USDA will announce additional energy infrastructure financing.