Lane-Scott Electric to get loan for upgrade projects
By JOHN GREEN
Special to The Telegram
DIGHTON — A western Kansas electric cooperative will receive a $28.4 million USDA loan to upgrade distribution lines and build a new substation within its eight-county service area, as well as to add "smart grid" technology.
The loan guarantee to Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative is among $207.9 million in projects in eight states announced Friday that will build more than 2,000 miles of new electric transmission line through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural utilities program.
"With the loans we'll build one new substation and rebuild another substation," said Ed Wilste, co-op general manager. Both are east of Dighton.
Officials estimate the smart-grid system, which will include installing new meters for its 6,000-plus rural electric customers, will cost about $3 million. It will enable the cooperative to collect real-time information on energy usage, as well as connect and disconnect service remotely, without having to go to the connection site.
"We have customers who are 50 or 60 miles away and this allows us to save on labor, time and driving costs," Wilste said. "It's about being able to get information and to be more efficient."
With the loan, the cooperative will build about 121 miles of new or larger electric distribution line, serving some 580 customers.
"We'll be building the line in special places where we need to provide a higher quality of service reliability," Wilste said. "There are also areas where oil-field growth or irrigation has been added and we need to add more capacity in those areas."
There are no specific geographic areas that have seen the most growth, Wilste said, but "it's pretty much system-wide."
"It's a good problem to have in our industry," he said.
The electric cooperative will also use part of the money to change out poles and transformers.
The loan, at 3.5 percent interest, is for four years, but it will likely take five years to complete all of the work, Wilste said.
Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative, established in 1941 and headquartered in Dighton, serves the western Kansas counties of Lane, Scott, Gove, Ness, Finney, Hodgeman and Logan.