Earlier this year, Monroe County Electric Cooperative held its 75th annual meeting.
It is hoped that Monday’s announcement of $7.75 million in approved loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development will help the cooperative position itself for the next 75 years.
“Extending electrical power and smart grid technology throughout our rural areas is vital to keeping all citizens connected in the 21st Century,” U.S. Congressman Bill Enyart (D-Illinois) stated in a Monday news release announcing the loan approval. “This provides the resources for investing in the communities served by Monroe County Electric Cooperative, and I was pleased to make this announcement today.”
This funding will enable MCEC to build 45 miles of distribution line as well as make other system improvements. The loan also includes $576,000 in smart grid projects.
MCEC President and CEO Alan Wattles said the loan is for the cooperative’s next five to seven years of capital investment in its system.
“Some of the items include a substation in the Smithton area as well as upgrades to wire conductor over several spots in the system,” he said. “We had a new 20-year long range plan and a four-year construction plan done to have the loan approved.”
Wattles explained that this type of USDA Rural Development loan funding is fairly common for electric co-ops that borrow for system upgrades.
MCEC’s long range plan projects future growth for its system, Wattles said, and shows areas that will need a larger conductor to handle the load and provide better reliability for its members.
“The need for the substation in the Smithton area is a great example,” he said. “Where we currently have our substations to provide power is reaching a point that in the next three to five years, we will need an additional sub there to maintain proper voltage and reliability.”
Some of these new loan funds will also be used to replace older pieces of equipment MCEC currently uses in its substations as well as power lines.
“All of the upgrades stem from projected growth in our service territory,” Wattles said. “Some areas have seen substantial growth over other areas that we serve.”
In all, MCEC serves more than 7,000 meters over 1,200 miles of line in parts of Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair counties.
In 2012, MCEC spent considerable time and resources to improve system reliability and reduce the number and length of outages and blinks. Improvements included changing out line and inspecting and replacing poles and transformers.
Because of these efforts, MCEC’s reliability rate was 99.96 percent for the year.
For more information on MCEC, visit www.mcec.org.