Xcel Energy boosting performance of its distribution grid for home and work
Ensuring Xcel Energy’s communities have more than enough power to keep the lights on requires adequate power generating resources, but also a resilient and capable system of substations and powerlines to deliver this energy to where it’s needed.
Since 2021, Xcel Energy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its electric distribution networks, with the intent of building grid capacity and improving service reliability for all customers.
“Our electric distribution system is everywhere and it’s constantly changing in response to the needs of our communities,” said Mike McLeod, Xcel Energy's regional manager for Community and Economic Development in Roswell, N.M. “By enlarging and updating the distribution grid, we are boosting its reliability during extreme heat or providing business and residential customers more access to the power supply as their power demands grow.”
In New Mexico alone this year, the company has invested more than $76 million in projects to upgrade and build feeder lines and substations, as well as standardize voltages in multiple locations around the state’s service area. That’s on top of the almost $70 million investment in the region’s distribution network in 2021. And work will continue in 2023, especially in the southeastern counties where oil and gas development has played a leading role in the economy of the region and state.
“New Mexico has been one of the strongest growth areas for all of Xcel Energy, and these investments in our system enable our communities to attract more business and create jobs with the confidence that they can deliver on their commitments,” McLeod said.
Much of the distribution work across the company has involved upgrading existing lines with higher capacity wire to carry more electricity – a vital effort to keep pace with economic growth in communities in the eight states the company serves. Additionally, Xcel Energy has initiated multiple voltage upgrades that bring older parts of communities in line with current standards. This reduces the frequency and duration of power outages by enabling crews to easily route power from a neighboring area at the same voltage level.
Substations that take power from the transmission grid and send it on to neighborhood feeder lines at a lower voltage have also been targeted for upgrades. For instance, the company has built new substations in several Texas communities, where growing customer demand had pushed some existing substations to capacity in the hot summer months.
Longer term, updating and modernizing the company’s distribution grid is critical to bringing more renewable energy onto the system, ensuring the eight states Xcel Energy operates in can reach and exceed goals to reduce carbon emissions. Many of these new resources could tie directly into the distribution network, and the higher capacity that has been built into Xcel Energy’s lines and substations will ensure this can be done in an effective way.
Improved distribution networks will also enable Xcel Energy customers to integrate more electric vehicles onto their roads and highways. The company launched new EV programs earlier this year, offering incentives and support to assist residential and business customers who are ready to switch to electric vehicles and pay far less to fuel their cars and trucks.
Please see the company’s Your Power is Our Power video for more information. Below and at top are scenes from the Preston West Substation in Amarillo, Texas.