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Iowa co-op wins USDA funds to finance ‘smart grid’ electricity
 
By DOUG SCHMITZ
Iowa Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Butler County Rural Electric Cooperative (BCREC) in Allison, Iowa, has been selected as one of the electric co-ops in 13 states to receive funds totaling $2.5 million from the USDA’s nearly $280 million set aside in loans for rural electric smart grid projects.

“The partnership between the USDA and rural electric utilities helps to improve service to customers and has made it easier for rural businesses to expand and create jobs,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, in an April 14 announcement.

The funding, which the USDA stated would increase access to information to better manage electricity use, includes more than $6 million in smart grid funding. In addition, these funds will result in the construction of more than 1,900 miles of new or improved transmission and distribution lines, Vilsack added.

Besides Iowa, the 12 other state rural electric cooperatives receiving funds are Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia (2 RECs), Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, the Dakotas (2 RECs), the Carolinas and Texas. The USDA program makes loans and guaranteed loans to rural electric co-ops to help finance the construction of electric distribution, transmission and generation facilities, including system improvements and replacements required to furnish and improve electric service to rural areas, said Craig Codner, BCREC CEO.

BCREC provides electric service in four counties in northern Iowa (Bremer, Butler, Floyd and Chickasaw) to about 5,000 customers, with the co-op owning and maintaining approximately 1,800 miles of distribution electric line, invested in excess of $50 million in a utility plant.

“As a recipient of USDA financing, Butler County REC is obligated to comply with various loan covenants and comply with USDA regulations,” Codner said. “This loan will finance projects for 2013 and 2014.”

The upcoming projects included over this two-year period are expected to take place throughout the four-county region served by Butler County REC, he added.

“Some of the projects are for new sections of line, while others are for rebuilding line or for maintenance of existing infrastructure in place,” he said. “These types of projects are part of the routine work plan that electric cooperatives perform.”

The specified approved purposes for the $2.5 million loan, Codner said, include: 48 new services, totaling $210,000; 1.38 miles new line 3 phase line, $105,300; 9.1 miles of rebuilt 3 phase line, $598,700; and 150 new transformers, $375,000.

In addition, funds from the loan will also be provided for 120 new electric meters, totaling $20,000; 110 customer premises system improvements, $535,000; sectionalizing equipment, $110,000; and pole replacements, $550,000.

Codner said less than 10 percent of the loan will be used to finance the infrastructure that is projected to serve the estimated 48 new services that may request service throughout the BCREC electric service area during 2013 and 2014.

“The distribution system in Butler County REC’s service area (as in other parts of the state and country) needs proper maintenance and periodic upgrades to meet demand for electricity and improve reliability,” he added.
5/2/2013