(Source: By Tom Joyce, The Mount Airy News, N.C. (MCT) – DOBSON — Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. will be improving and expanding its facilities with the help of a $20 million loan guarantee by a federal agency.
The local provider was among rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 15 states tapped for loan guarantees announced Wednesday by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. They are being provided through the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development unit.
This will allow the various entities to make improvements to generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies. Only two companies in North Carolina were approved for loan guarantees, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. based in Dobson, and one in the Cape Hatteras area.
The $20 million loan to Surry-Yadkin isn’t coming from the federal agency itself, but will be guaranteed by it — “which helps our interest rate,” explained Robert Maxwell, the company’s manager of engineering and operations.
Maxwell added Thursday that the loan is part of a five-year $21 million construction plan for Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. “It’s for capital projects — it’s for system improvements,” he said.
The financing will allow Surry-Yadkin to build and improve 114 miles of distribution and transmission lines that will serve nearly 1,500 customers.
This will include about $6 million for new lines to serve consumers added within its service area, such as through home construction.
Other funds are targeted for upgrading or replacing existing equipment.
Surry-Yadkin Membership Corp now has about 28,000 service accounts and maintains nearly 4,000 miles of lines spanning five counties. The utility that was organized in 1940 employs around 55 people.
No More Meter Readers
A portion of the guaranteed loan targeted for smart grid technology locally — some $3 million — will mean the end of conventional meter-reading for Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp., whereby personnel must physically travel to a customer location.
Maxwell said an automated meter-reading system is being added which will allow electrical usage to be monitored from a remote location and free up employees for other tasks.
That project is about halfway complete, Maxwell said.
This week’s announcement includes support for more than $10 million in smart grid technologies nationwide. Such innovations help utilities make efficiency improvements to the electric grid and mean lower power bills for consumers by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.
The agriculture secretary’s goal is to fund more than $250 million for smart grid technologies around the country.
Along with ensuring continued service to residential users through the maintaining of a reliable, up-to-date electrical infrastructure, the federal loan guarantees announced this week will allow rural communities to retain existing businesses and support new ones, officials say.
“These loans I am announcing today will have a lasting impact on the rural landscape for generations to come,” Vilsack said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.
©2012 The Mount Airy News (Mount Airy, N.C.)
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