USDA to fund $90.48M UCS upgrade
A $90.48 million investment will lead to construction or improvement to 834 miles of line and other electric service system improvements, according to United Cooperative Services General Manager and CEO Cameron Smallwood.
The upgrades are part of a four-year plan.
"We begin the process every four years by estimating the funds we will need for service to new customers added to our system and for upgrades in high growth service areas," Smallwood said.
The four-year plan also routinely takes into account necessary improvements and line replacements within the service area. UCS provides electric service to all or parts of 12 counties. UCS is headquartered in Cleburne, with offices in Burleson, Graford, Granbury, Meridian and Stephenville. The UCS service area includes the majority of Bosque, Erath, Hood, Johnson and Somervell counties, about half of Palo Pinto County, portions of Comanche, Eastland, Hamilton and Stephens counties, and a sliver of Tarrant and Young counties.
Financing is being provided through a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which Monday announced $3.6 billion in loans to fund 82 electric projects in 31 states.
“For 80 years, rural electric utilities have provided reliable and affordable electricity to help rural communities increase productivity and build stronger economies,” wrote U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a press release. “These loans will help them continue to do that. The utilities and cooperatives will use some of the money to finance energy efficiency projects, renewable fuel systems and smart grid technologies to increase our energy independence and improve rural electric infrastructure.”
UCS' $90.48 million loan is a 30-year, low interest note, Smallwood said.
"The goal is to spread out our investment over a reasonable timeframe for our members," Smallwood said. "We are able to do this at a very low interest rate."
The loan includes $363,475 for smart grid projects, which allows for automatic switching of system lines as outages take place, he said.
"We are making significant investments in Mansfield, the north side of Joshua and south Burleson, and in Godley," Smallwood said. "We also have several technical upgrades within the plan."
The USDA celebrated electric cooperatives in October with the theme "Cooperatives Build."
“Electric cooperatives provide a vital service to rural Texas communities,” wrote USDA Rural Development State Director Paco Valentin, in a press release. “USDA Rural Development is pleased to assist United Electric Cooperative Services to improve the efficiency of essential and affordable services to rural homeowners, farms and businesses.”
A full list of USDA loan program projects is available HERE.