LA CROSSE, Wis. —Dairyland Power Cooperative was awarded a $261.9 million loan guarantee Wednesday from the federal government to reduce environmental impacts, update technology and improve distribution in a swath of the rural Midwest.
The guarantee will allow the La Crosse-based cooperative to add 81 miles of transmission line, increase efficiency and cut coal emissions — all with more affordable loan interest rates.
“Our role with projects like these (is) to make sure that people in rural America have not only reliable power, but also that they have the ability to access the latest technology,” said Doug O’Brien, rural development deputy under secretary for the USDA.
New smart-grid technology allows many urban power suppliers to cut peak usage and manage distribution more efficiently.
Federal officials hope to give rural communities the same capabilities, and have already met a 2012 goal to finance
$250 million in smart-grid projects. The loan guarantee granted to Dairyland allows for $3.5 million for smart grids.
Most of the federal funding will allow Dairyland to make advances in a $400 million effort to cut air pollution created by Genoa and Alma coal plants.
Dairyland has already started the process with projects such as “baghouses” that filter out particles created by the power plants.
“We’re right in the middle of it,” spokeswoman Katie Thomson said.
Loan guarantees from the federal government help borrowers get the best possible interest rate from private lenders.
“That means that Dairyland Power Cooperative has the ability to pass that on to the consumers and the businesses,” O’Brien said.