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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced more than $1.8 billion in funding for electric utility infrastructure projects in 25 states and one territory to improve service for more than 37,000 rural customers.

According to the USDA, the projects include more than $45 million for smart grid technologies, $73 million for renewable energy projects and over $213 million targeted to benefit Native Americans. The department says this funding will build or improve more than 6,500 miles of line to deliver electricity to rural America.

The USDA notes that the funding is provided through its Rural Utilities Service Program. Some of the utilities set to receive funding include the following:

- The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which serves rural electric consumers in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, will receive nearly $168 million in funding to build approximately 1,215 miles of line, invest in smart grid technologies and make other system improvements. The USDA says that almost 3,800 rural electric consumers in the three states will see direct benefits from this investment, and of the $168 million in funding, more than $166 million will serve Native Americans.

- North Dakota-based Nodak Electric Cooperative will receive a $31 million loan to serve 920 consumers, build 450 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2.4 million for smart grid projects and $540,000 for service to Native Americans.

- Alabama-based Covington Electric Cooperative will receive a $42.5 million loan guarantee to construct 539 miles of line and make other system improvements, including $8,000 for smart grid applications. The USDA notes that these funds will increase electric system reliability for approximately 5,400 rural Alabama customers.

"Rural electric cooperatives have provided reliable, affordable power to rural communities for more than 75 years. [These] investments will help ensure our electric infrastructure continues to deliver reliable and affordable electricity for years to come," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"This funding is part of the Obama Administration's vision for a new rural energy economy and USDA's commitment to creating economic opportunity in rural America," he adds. "Investments in smart grid technologies will continue to modernize our nation's electric system and improve operational efficiencies."

A full list of rural electric utilities that will receive USDA funding is available here.


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