Last week, nine rural electric cooperatives received loan guarantees to improve their electric systems. Cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Wyoming, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin will use the money to develop a smart grid. By upgrading their systems they can save energy. This means homes and business will save money on electric bills.
A smart grid also makes electricity more reliable. This means fewer outages, and shorter blackouts. By improving their infrastructure, rural electric co-ops help make rural America stronger. And they are creating jobs. Contractors and tradespeople will be needed to upgrade power lines and install smart grid technology. This means more money in our rural economies.
In the Midwest, most of the funds are going towards transmission infrastructure and environmental improvements. But in addition to saving energy and money, these transmission projects will boost renewable energy efforts.
Renewable energy generation, from solar panels or wind turbines, needs access to the larger electric grid. If you think of the electric grid as a highway system, wind farms need an on-ramp to enter. By improving transmission, the co-ops will create more on-ramps, more access points for renewable energy. This means that wind farms can continue to sprout across the Midwest.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has now loaned out $250 million in rural smart grid projects, fulfilling the government’s earlier commitment to rural America. Smart grid development creates jobs and saves energy — and that’s always a smart move.