The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday announced approvals of loans worth $2.1 billion to 43 projects in 27 states that would help rural electric utilities build and upgrade infrastructure in rural America.

Funding is contingent upon recipients (full list) meeting the terms of the loan agreement. Among major recipients were the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp., which received $499 million to furnish or improve electric service in rural areas. Alaska Electric Energy Cooperative received $150 million to convert resources to combined cycle, install a new aero-derivative gas-fired turbine, and build new substations.

Colorado-based Gunnison County Electric Association will receive over $7 million to build or improve nearly 60 miles of line; more than $1 million of those funds will go to smart grid technology. A loan of over $35 million was awarded to another Colorado cooperative, Highline Electric Association to build or improve over 280 miles of line and includes over $2 million for smart grid technology.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, owned by 44 distribution cooperatives providing power to 1.5 million customers across 200,000 square miles in four states, will build or improve over 150 miles of transmission line, upgrade substations, and invest over $9 million in smart grid technology with a total of $132 million in loan funds.

In Virginia, a loan of $90 million to Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative is expected be used to build a 49.9 MW woody biomass generation facility. The project is projected to cover approximately 6% of the cooperative’s future power needs for the years 2014 through 2030.

In Georgia, a loan of almost $30 million to Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation will be used to build or improve over 250 miles of transmission line. The loan amount includes $9,402,000 in smart grid projects, which help utilities better manage electricity needs and improve operational efficiencies. These investments also help rural utilities improve their delivery and storage of renewable energy to generate electricity, the USDA said.

The announcement was made on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s behalf by Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager during a speech to the National Rural Electric Association regional meeting in Denver.

Sources: POWERnews, USDA