East-Central Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative in Urbana has received a $10 million loan guarantee from the Rural Utilities Service of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
The utility, which serves about 6,700 customers in 11 Eastern Iowa counties, will use the funding as part of a $16 million, four-year work plan to replace 211 miles of utility poles and power lines as well as convert electric substations.
“We have installed switches in all of our substations in preparation for smart grid,” said Lisa Franck of East-Central Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative. “That was work that was performed in the 2013 portion of the work plan.
“The poles are 75 years and were not as stout as what they make them today.”
A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology with two-way communications to control appliances at consumers’ homes to save energy, reduce cost and increase reliability and transparency.
Franck said contractors are performing most of the work, which is scheduled for completion in 2016.
Since 2011, USDA has invested more than $526 million in smart grid technologies nationwide. The loan guarantee for East-Central Iowa REC is part of funding for projects in seven states to improve electric service for about 7,000 rural customers.
The more than $136 million in USDA loan guarantees will go toward the building of more than 2,200 miles of line, fund more than $5 million in smart grid projects and make other system improvements.