May 21, 2018
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Vinalhaven, Swans Island to receive loans for electric grid upgrades

By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff

Two Maine island electric cooperatives have received nearly $1.8 million in federal loans to add distribution lines and make other infrastructure improvements.

Fox Islands Electric Cooperative on Vinalhaven and North Haven will receive a $950,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service for construction of 4 miles of new distribution lines and to make improvements to 8 miles of lines.

Swan’s Island Electric Cooperative will receive an $813,000 loan from the USDA program to construct 3 miles of new distribution lines and to make improvements to 4 miles of lines.

The money is part of $40 million being distributed to rural electric cooperative utilities in 27 states for infrastructure and “smart grid” projects.

Virginia Manuel, Maine state director for USDA Rural Development, said the loans are not funded through any of the past stimulus programs but instead are made available annually on a first-come, first-served basis for rural utility districts that meet the program requirements.

Manuel said recipients typically have 35 years to pay back the loans, which allows them to spread the costs for expensive but needed infrastructure projects.

Announced Thursday, the funding comes at a time when the Obama administration is pushing Congress to approve the president’s American Jobs Act, a $447 billion package of funding for infrastructure projects as well as tax cuts. The bill failed to earn the 60 votes necessary for passage in the U.S. Senate during a procedural vote earlier this week.

“This investment in the electric grid will help address the growing need for electric service nationwide and spur job creation by building out rural infrastructure,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Smart grid technology can help better manage power use, provide rate stability for businesses and create the climate for job growth in rural America.”

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