CLARION — Three rural Iowa electrical coops, including one that serves north-central Iowans, are getting a combined $20 million in federal loan money. Clarion-based Prairie Energy Cooperative got a $6 million loan to help offset the costs of connecting 78 more customers.
Prairie’s Sarah Olson-McLaughlin says the loan will help them keep up with maintenance. “It’s kind of almost run of the mill. … It’s to start to help with rebuilding our infrastructure. It’s keeping up so we keep the lights on, the reliability and we keep our costs down for our members,” she says.
Extending and maintaining a power grid is expensive. This is particularly a challenge for rural electrical grids that have fewer users and serve more miles. Prairie’s 4300 members are spread over eleven Iowa counties, including Winnebago, Worth, Hancock and Wright counties in our immediate listening area . Olson-McLaughlin says a transformer would cost $830 two years ago and that price has more than doubled. The per-foot cost of wire is up and the cost of poles has increased as much as 64%. “And then fuel. Everyone knows about fuel… oh my goodness,” she says.
USDA’s Rural Development Department state director Theresa Greenfield says the rising costs have a big impact on rural projects. “These public and cooperative partnerships are so important, that we can leverage our dollars together. Our federal tax dollars and investments and our private investments for the success of our communities. For our producers. For our small business.”
The USDA has invested $1.4 billion in rural Iowa electric programs since 2021.