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WASHINGTON -- A solar energy farm near Stuttgart and a nonprofit electric cooperative with headquarters in Salem have qualified for multimillion-dollar low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency said Wednesday.

The USDA unveiled 18 loans totaling nearly $400 million Wednesday.

The money, from the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program, will assist with rural electric projects in 13 states, the agency said. Rates on the loans vary.

The largest, $68.5 million, is for the Stuttgart Solar project, about 7 miles southeast of Stuttgart in Arkansas County.

The facility, with more than 350,000 solar panels, began generating power earlier this year.

The 81-megawatt project can generate enough electricity to power more than 13,000 homes.

NextEra Energy Resources, a south Florida company that describes itself as "the world's largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun," is the parent company of Stuttgart Solar, the USDA said.

NextEra spokesman Steven Stengel said he could confirm that the information in the USDA announcement was accurate, but that the company would have no further comment.

Entergy Arkansas has entered into a 20-year agreement to purchase the power, Entergy spokesman Kerri Case said.

"We want safe, reliable, cost-effective energy sources for our customers and this fits into our portfolio," she said.

North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, with headquarters in Salem in Fulton County near the Missouri border, will receive a $21 million loan. The money will help it to add 82 miles of line, providing services for 2,016 additional consumers, among other improvements, the agency said.

Cooperative spokesman Tori Moss said it can borrow up to $21 million over the next four to six years.

Formed in 1939, the cooperative delivered power to areas that were not served by larger utilities.

Today, it provides power in eight counties and has more than 36,000 members.

Like other cooperatives, it has a long-standing relationship with the USDA, Moss said.

"The USDA's Rural Utilities Service is the primary lending agency of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative," she said.

In a written statement, Anne Hazlett, assistant secretary for rural development, said affordable and reliable power is "undeniably a necessity in today's world. Under the leadership of Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in keeping our rural communities connected to this essential infrastructure."

Business on 09/20/2018

Print Headline: Solar farm, co-op to get USDA loans


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