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USDA loan to help area power co-op improve reliability

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business Willmar,Minnesota 56201
West Central Tribune
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USDA loan to help area power co-op improve reliability
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

DANUBE -- Renville-Sibley Cooperative Power Association, headquartered in Danube, has received an $8.6 million USDA Rural Development loan to improve the reliability and efficiency of Renville-Sibley's distribution system.


Renville-Sibley is among 27 rural electric cooperative utilities in that will receive funding for generation and transmission projects, distribution facilities and smart grid technologies, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

He said the loans will create jobs and finance rural electric utility improvements benefiting more than 28,000 rural customers in 18 states.

"Improving the electric infrastructure in rural areas creates jobs by ensuring that businesses have reliable and affordable power supplies," Vilsack said. "Electric cooperatives are leaders in rural economic development by helping rural areas retain existing jobs and attract new ones."

Vilsack also said his department is providing more than $35 million to finance smart grid technologies, such as advanced metering infrastructure, that utilities use to better manage electric supply and demand.

Renville-Sibley will use the loan to serve 72 customers with 10 miles of new line, improve 32 miles of existing line and make $1.1 million in smart grid investments.

Dale Christensen, Renville-Sibley CEO, said the loan will cover the construction work plan from 2011 to 2014.

"We have already begun to replace infrastructure that is addressed in the plan with the goal of completing the work by the end of 2014,'' said Christensen.

He said two jobs were created to aid in the construction of facilities.

"For a small town like Danube in Renville County, creating two new jobs in our area during these economic times is a great plus for our local communities,'' he said.

Christensen said the automated metering infrastructure and the geographic information system will assist the cooperative in enhancing the efficiency of the delivery system.

"With the cost of electricity continuing to increase and the environmental constraints the industry is facing, reducing inherent losses of the distribution system is an increasing focus for all utilities,'' said Christensen. "Renville-Sibley's board of directors is interested in designing and positioning their cooperative for the future.''

He also said Renville-Sibley's 1,960 members are enjoying the personal benefits provided by the automated metering infrastructure because they no longer need to read their meters monthly and the cooperative can provide them information on their daily or even hourly energy usage patterns.

The geographic information system will be used to develop a more accurate mapping and inventory of the existing distribution system.

"Together with the AMI system, it will be used to aid in a more robust operation of the system with a focus on reducing losses and enhancing the reliability for the membership,'' said Christensen.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150