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March 13-- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $276 million in rural electric infrastructure to improve system efficiency and reliability.

In Georgia, Excelsior Electric Membership Corp. will receive Rural Development funds to build 69 miles of line, improve 120 miles and make system improvements. The loan amount includes $25,000 for smart grid projects.

Excelsior serves 20,741 residential, nearly 1,370 commercial and 311 irrigation consumers across 3,200 miles in Bryan, Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Jenkins and Tattnall counties. Five of these eight counties are designated as poverty counties.

   “Investing in our nation’s electric infrastructure is fundamental for rural economic growth,” Secretary Perdue said. “USDA’s longstanding partnerships with rural electric cooperatives help ensure that rural areas have affordable, reliable electric service. These investments also increase efficiency and productivity for businesses and residents, and support the quality of life in rural America.”

   USDA’s $276 million investment will build nearly 1,000 miles of line and improve 733 miles of line to meet current and future needs of rural businesses and residents. It will also support $65 million in smart grid technologies to help rural electric utilities reduce outages and integrate new systems.

   Smart grid includes technological enhancements such as metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications and geospatial information systems.