Arkansas to receive more than $137 million in loans to modernize electrical grids

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,091 views 

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday (Jan. 30) the department is investing $2.7 billion to help 64 electric cooperatives and utilities expand and modernize the nation’s rural electric grid and increase grid security.

Three of those projects will be in Arkansas. USDA will allocate $137.235 million for those projects. A timetable for completing the projects was not released.

“These critical investments will benefit rural people and businesses in many ways for decades to come,” 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.”

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

Nearly half of the awards will help finance infrastructure improvements in underserved communities.

In Arkansas, C&L Electric Cooperative Corporation will receive a $45.2 million loan. It will build and improve 331 miles of electric lines. This loan includes various smart grid projects including the installation of 273 miles of fiber cable for the backbone communications network. C&L Electric is headquartered in Star City and provides service to an average of 22,549 consumers over 4,497 miles of line in eight Arkansas counties.

Woodruff Electric Cooperative Corporation will receive a $42 million loan. It will be used to build and improve 145 miles of electric lines. This loan includes smart grid projects including the installation of 458.23 miles of backbone fiber to bring fiber communication to all its district offices. Woodruff Electric is headquartered in Forrest City and serves an average of 19,881 consumers through 4,946 miles of line in seven counties in east-central Arkansas.

Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corporation will receive a $50 million loan. It will be used to build and improve 360 miles of electric lines. Arkansas Valley Electric is headquartered in Ozark with an average of 61,397 consumers through 6,764 miles of line in ten counties in Arkansas and two counties in Oklahoma.